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

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Zinhle­zonke Zikalala

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.”

THE VER­DICT

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.

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