Sean Spicer loves chewing gum.
The new White House press secretary is so hooked on Orbit Cinnamint sticks that he tears through two-and-a-half packs by noon.
He swallows each piece whole.
This all emerged in a profile of the then-political strategist in the Washington Post last year.
Now that he is in the spotlight, the account of Spicer’s peculiar habit has resurfaced.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, doctors wouldn’t recommend it.
Gum habit: The new White House press secretary is so hooked on Orbit Cinnamint sticks that he tears through two-and-a-half packs by noon. But is that healthy? We explain…
On the positive side: some studies have shown chewing gum can keep brains active, stave off hunger pains, and help push bacteria out from between your teeth.
And the Mayo clinic agrees that – although not advised – swallowing chewing gum will not kill you.
However, the seemingly innocuous product can also deliver a host of health problems – from bad breath and jaw stiffness to constipation and diarrhea.
1. SUPPOSEDLY BOOSTS BRAIN POWER
A study by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan found gum can do the trick for students revising.
When participants were put through a number of tests, those who were chewing gum had 10 per cent faster reaction times compared to those who weren’t.
Using functional MRI scans, the researchers found that chewing affected eight parts of the brain — most of which are involved in executive function (actions) or motor-related functions.
In a study at Cardiff University, chewing gum was found to improve performance when people were struggling to pay attention while completing monotonous tasks. But it made no difference when they were operating at normal levels.
2. FIGHTS BACTERIA IN TEETH
A study by the Univrsity of Groningen in the Netherlands found a single piece of chewing gum can remove 100 million bacteria – 10 percent of the microbial load in saliva – in ten minutes.
And they say that gum can be just as effective as flossing – although they each targets different areas of the mouth.
Also, they note that only gum that did not contain sugar was useful – though (as we explain below) artificial sweeteners come with other issues.
If it did contain sugar, that could ‘feed’ oral bacteria.
This is Sean Spicer’s chewing gum of choice, according to an interview last year
1. BOWEL PROBLEMS
Sugar-free gum typically avoids the added calories by including xylitol.
This can have a laxative effect if an adult consumes a large quantity in a short space of time.
That effect can be exascerbated if the gum also contains other laxatives like glycerol and sorbitol.
This can cause diarrhea.
Excessive gum chewers can also suffer abdominal pain and bloating.
That is down to the swallowing of excess air, which can lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
Lastly, chewing gum can confuse your body into releasing acids when they’re not needed, making bloating worse.
Canadian blogger and physician Dr Ben Kim explains:
‘When you chew gum you send your body physical signals that food is about to enter your body.
‘The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are therefore released, but without the food they’re intended to digest.
‘This can cause bloating, an overproduction of stomach acid, and can compromise your ability to produce sufficient digestive secretions when you actually do eat food.
‘Some people may also have adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, from the artificial sweeteners that are commonly found in chewing gum.’
2. ASPARTAME LINKED TO DIABETES, CANCER, BIRTH DEFECTS
Aspartame has established itself as an important component in many low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages and is primarily responsible for the growth over the last two decades in the sugar-free market.
It is currently consumed by over 200 million people around the world and is found in more than 6,000 products.
CAN YOU SWALLOW CHEWING GUM?
The Mayo Clinic says it is not advised, but it won’t kill you:
‘Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn’t harmful if swallowed.
‘Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested.
‘But this isn’t true. If you swallow gum, it’s true that your body can’t digest it.
‘But the gum doesn’t stay in your stomach.
‘It moves relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.’
These include carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops.
However, studies have shown links to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even emotional disorders.
To make aspartame, a nutritive sweetener, scientists join two amino acids (protein components), L-phenylalanine and L-aspartic acid, with a third component called a methyl ester group.
Very little is needed for a sweet taste, making aspartame virtually non-caloric. It is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sucrose.
A study by Toronto’s York University last year found aspartame derailed consumers’ ability to control glucose in the blood.
This could drive up one’s risk of developing diabetes.
Lead author Professor Jennifer Kuk said: ‘Our study shows individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes.’
One of the most influential ‘anti’-aspartame studies was published by the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, in 2005. It suggested that rats given doses of the sweetener at levels similar to humans were at greater risk of developing cancers.
In 2010 an EU-funded project suggested that pregnant women who consumed aspartame in fizzy drinks had up to a 78 per cent greater risk of premature birth.
IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?
According to the vast majority of scientists and food experts, just one group of people should be wary of diet drinks. ‘One person in 10,000 has an inherited condition called PKU, or phenylketonuria, and cannot break down phenylalanine,’ says Collins.
If sufferers have high levels of phenylalanine in their food, they can suffer brain damage. Sufferers are normally diagnosed at birth by a routine ‘heel prick’ blood test and need to follow a strict diet. It is because of PKU sufferers that the information on cans of diet soft drinks must say if they contain phenylalanine.
For those outside that group, however, aspartame is considered perfectly safe.
‘It has been out for 30 years, and from a safety point of view it’s probably one of the safest food additives,’ says Collins.
Not everyone agrees.
Erik Millstone, a professor of science policy at Sussex University and an
Outspoken critic of aspartame, says there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and good-quality scientific research raising safety concerns. He believes that between 5 and 10 per cent of people who consume aspartame suffer side-effects.
EXPLAINED: THE INGREDIENTS IN SEAN SPICER’S ORBIT CINNAMINT GUM
A slow-metabolizing sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits. It can be used as a laxative.
This is an industry-created umbrella term for a medley of five materials: elastomers (for elasticity), resins (to bind), plasticizers (to soften), fillers (for texture), and antioxidants (to preserve flavor and shelf life).
Companies are vague about which specific elastomers, resins, plasticizers, fillers and antioxidants they use.
Some like talcum powder and PVA could be toxic and dangerous.
Daily Mail Online has contacted Orbit for details on its gum base.
A sweetener, solvent and laxative.
It can be used to help preserve foods, or as a thickening agent.
Products that contain glycerol include low-fat cookies, cough syrup, soap, shaving cream, and liquid for e-cigarettes. Glycerol capsules are used as a laxative to treat constipation.
NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS
A vague term that doesn’t seem to mean anything. Daily Mail Online has contacted Orbit for clarity.
LESS THAN 2% OF:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate
- Acesulfame K
- Soy lecithin
- Colors (Red 40, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6)
- BHT (to maintain freshness)
- Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine
‘The most commonly reported evidence is neurological — headaches, blurred vision and, in a few serious cases, seizures,’ he says.
‘I don’t think it should ever have been approved in the first place, and now there is more than enough evidence to ban it.’
3. INGREDIENTS LINKED TO POOR METABOLISM
The fructose, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) present in diet colas can all interfere with natural gut bacteria.
That was the conclusion of Amanda Payne, a researcher from Switzerland’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health who published a paper in the journal Obesity Reviews.
This messes up your metabolism and disrupts the body’s way of signaling to you that you’re full and satisfied.
As a consequence, the body pumps out insulin, the hormone that controls sugar levels and fat storage, so that you lay down what Toribio-Mateas calls ‘diet cola belly in the form of more fat around the midriff’ – just where you wanted to shed fat.
In addition to this: ‘The fake sugars in the drink are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and trick your brain into thinking real sugar is on the way,’ says Toribio-Mateas.
‘When the calories don’t arrive, it triggers a cascading effect that interferes with hunger signals, blood sugar levels and satiety.’
A published by Massachusetts General Hospital in November found evidence that phenylalanine – a chewing gum ingredient derived from aspartame – disrupts metabolism.
Phenylalanine disrupts an enzyme that is key to preventing metabolic disorders.
This process is similar to what happens in people with type 2 diabetes or heart disease, whose bodies hamper natural metabolism efforts.
Testing in mice, the researchers found that mice with phenylalanine-filled aspartame in their drinking water gained more weight and developed more issues with metabolism than those that didn’t.
At the time, the British Soft Drinks Association hit back at the research.
‘Decades of scientific research, including human clinical trials, show that low-calorie sweeteners, such as those in diet drinks, have been found to help consumers manage their calorie intake when part of an overall healthy diet,’ BSDA director Gavin Partington said.
4. MOUTH DISORDERS
The act of chewing has been said to keep brain waves active.
However, doctors warn constant chewing can lead to stiffness in your jaw, the clicking of joints, and pain in your neck.
‘Anytime you overuse a certain set of muscles, it can lead to contracted muscles and related pain, including headaches, earaches, and toothaches over time,’ according to Dr Mercola.