Chewing Away The Fat
Can chewing gum actually help you lose weight? It can reduce anxiety, boost your memory and freshen your breath. But can it really help you shave off a few centimetres? Some experts believe it can. We’re about to go through the good and the bad of the st
We pop the bubble around this sticky subject
POPPING THROUGH THE PROS
“Chewing gum can help you control cravings, manage hunger and ultimately promote weight loss,” says Anél Kirsten, dieitican at Paarl Dietitians. But, before you get too excited, it’s not some miracle cure to weight loss – it works because it can be a low-kilojoule way of satisfying a sweet craving. In fact, many diet plans, like Weight Watchers, consider sugar-free gum as “free food”. But munching on a square of Chappies is not going to do the trick – the type you choose will make a difference. “Sugar-free gum made with xylitol is the best pick. There are 25kJ in a two-piece serving of Stimorol Wild Cherry Sugarfree Gum compared to 50kJ in one Chappies Gum,” says Kirsten. “Think of gum chewing as just another tool in your weight-loss kit,” says Kirsten. When you’re stressed or bored and not actually hungry, it’s an easy, light-kilojoule way to stop yourself from reaching for something more detrimental to your weight-loss goals. “The biggest benefit of chewing gum comes from reaching for it instead of something more caloric, like a chocolate bar, rusks, chips or other junk foods,” says Kirsten. Great, but how much could one really lose from chewing gum? “Research from the University of Rhode Island showed that people who chewed gum consumed 285kJ less during lunch and didn’t compensate for that by eating more later in the day. Instead it helped to satisfy cravings and resist fattening treats. Interestingly, the study also found that gum chewers burnt five percent more kilojoules than non-gum chewers,” says Kirsten.
BURSTING YOUR BUBBLE
Like most things, adopting this chewing habit is not without some problems. Even though it can stave off sweet cravings, the artificially sweetened chewies can have laxative effects. “If over-consumed, the low-kilojoule sweetner sorbitol is poorly absorbed by the small intestine and acts as a laxative,” explains Kirsten. And a dodge tum might not be your only stomach problem. According to dietician Anika Barnard, “Chewing gum can lead to swallowing air, which can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.” Result: burping and, ahem, farts. And that’s not pleasant for you or others. Another concern is for people with IBS. Kirsten explains that sugar-free gum contains fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), which are shortchain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that could be poorly absorbed by the body and cause digestive problems in IBS sufferers. “Those who can’t tolerate FODMAPs should choose a gum sweetened with a low-kilojoule sweetener such as stevia.”
So, to chew or not to chew? Barnard says chewing gum isn’t bad at all. The trick is to do it in moderation and pair it with other healthy habits in order for it to contribute to your goals. Make a few other small lifestyle changes, like “switching from two-percent to onepercent milk or taking the stairs at work and not foregoing nutritious snacks, like vegetables, whole-grain crackers and fruit,” says Kirsten. The bottom line? Substituting gum for a snack-sized bag of chips once a week could help you lose up to one kilogram in a year,” adds Kirsten. Now chew on that.