For whatever reason you choose to chew it, the plastic, potentially toxic mish-mash of ingredients in chewing gum are bad for the environment and bad for us.
Football managers chew it to keep their nerves and emotions under control. Lovers chew it to keep their teeth white and their breath kissing fresh. Kids chew it to look cool and - if they're young enough - practice blowing bubbles. Some people even chew for medicinal purposes - for instance as a substitute for smoking or to get a caffeine 'energy' hit.
Humans have chewed gum for millennia but it's only recently that it has become the hi-tech plastic, minty 'treat' choc full of preservatives that it is today.
The ancient Greeks chewed mastiche - a gum made from the resin of the mastic tree; the Mayans chewed chicle which is the sap from the sapodilla tree; North American Indians chewed the sap from spruce trees and passed the habit along to the settlers.
After World War II, chemists learned to make synthetic rubber, which eventually replaced most natural rubber as a chewing gum base. Today the ubiquitous ingredient 'gum base' is label shorthand for an alphabet soup of potentially toxic ingredients.
Because of the vagaries of chewing gum ingredient labels most of us continue to chew in ignorance - and in vast numbers. Americans consume 40 percent of the world's gum. Across Britain, France, Germany, and Spain for instance almost 50 per cent of adults aged 15 and above use chewing gum.
When a market is this profitable, regulators tend to look the other way and questions about long-term safety can get pushed to the bottom of the agenda.
In 2008, however, Canadian regulators did stick their heads over the parapet by publishing a draft list of 17 substances that they felt were toxic and therefore should not be allowed in products like chewing gum. Vinyl acetate, which is used to manufacture the polyvinyl acetate in gum base, was one of these. Canadian concern was raised because of research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer research arm, which produced some evidence suggesting that vinyl acetate caused tumors in rats.
Vincent Cogliano, head of the IARC program at that time identified environmental factors that can raise the risk of human cancer, says trace amounts of vinyl acetate could make it into polyvinyl acetate, the chewing-gum ingredient.
"Polyvinyl acetate is made from vinyl acetate. Not necessarily one-hundred-point-zero-zero per cent is bound into the polymer, but there may be some," he said.
The Wrigley Company, makers of Doublemint, Big Red, Extra, Hubba Bubba and Juicy Fruit, likewise said its products do not contain vinyl acetate.
The IARC believed that trace amounts of vinyl acetate could make it into the gum base material and the Canadian regulators suggested that a 'precautionary approach' could be justified.
The proposal caused a furore amongst gum manufacturers who argued that even if they did make their gum from vinyl acetate none - or only minute amounts - would remain in the finished product. In 2009 the Canadian regulators backed down.
But vinyl acetate is not only toxic chemical in most chewing gums. Most also have hydrogentated soybean oil, aspartame, soy lecithin. These toxic ingredients are especially evident in brands from Trident, Dentyne and Wrigleys. Ironically, all of these claim that their chewing gum products fight cavities. Unfortunately, any benefit derived from fighting cavities through these types of chewing gum is very quickly negated by the extreme levels of toxicity in their ingredients which are far more detrimental to our health. Of course, they won't tell you that.
Aspartame in chewing gum is absorbed directly though the buccal mucosa of the tongue, mouth, and gums, making it a far worse poisoning than even if it were given intravenously. The nerves serving this area and their vascular supply derive directly from the brain, so the Aspartame absorbed through them goes directly into the brain, by passing the spinal cord and blood brain barrier.
The intact Aspartame molecule and its diketopiperazine form are vastly worse poisonings than any of the other poisonings which arise from it during digestion, and liver processing of the digestive blood, which is delivered directly to the liver via the portal vein. The other poisonings, as mentioned, are indeed horrendous but Aspartame from gum is far worse, making even the smaller amounts contained in chewing gum strikingly dangerous and damaging. This is doubtless why Wrigley placed it in all their products!
Aspartame, via ingestion into the digestive tract, is made into some ten other poisonings by the digestive processes, and then excepting that which is delivered directly to the pancreas, they are transported straight to the liver via the portal vein, where they then are very partially dealt with, and partially reprocessed. Afterwards, they are sent in somewhat lesser concentration to the entire body, lessening the amount which eventually goes to the brain. The amount getting to the brain from either source is devastating to it in many ways. Aspartame is most certainly devastatingly toxic when ingested, but a like amount is immensely worse when obtained from chewing gum.
Overall, unless you find a natural chewing gum (as far away from the conventional brands as possible), it's in your best interest to staying away from chewing gum.