Gum — with its minty freshness and zingy flavors — seems like it could help with weight loss. It’s a welcome distraction from both hunger pangs and mindless snacking. Furthermore, some studies suggest chewing gum may help you stick to your eating plan by dialing down cravings and lowering calories from snacks.
Of course, like most other slim-down elixirs (See: apple cider vinegar, celery juice or cleanses), the research on gum’s effects on weight loss is still sparse — and shows mixed results.
Nonetheless, experts take sides on the topic. So while you already know the successful recipe for sustainable weight loss — a healthier overall diet, regular movement, stress relief, proper recovery and quality sleep — here’s a look at whether or not chewing gum might also play a role in helping you slim down.
In some scenarios, chewing gum can help with weight loss. Sometimes I recommend my weight-loss clients chew mint-flavored gum directly after meals or when they can clearly identify they are just bored and want to turn to food as an oral pacifier. The minty flavor can be enough to deter the desire for sweet foods and the constant chewing can be enough to alleviate boredom.
Chewing gum can be more like a bandage, though. The true questions you need to ask yourself are: Why do you desire something sweet after meals? Or, why are you bored?
The body of research on chewing gum is small, but it does indicate it could help lower your appetite and, in turn, reduce how much food you eat. If you tend to be a snacker between meals or in the afternoon, chewing gum could help you avoid munching past your calorie goals. Also, it could be helpful as a treat after meals if you’re used to reaching for something sweet. Whether or not this actually helps you lose weight is yet to be determined.
However, gums can also be full of sugar alcohols (common sugar-free sweeteners), which are not absorbed by your body, but trick your brain into thinking it’s had sugar. Your blood sugar doesn’t actually rise as it would with sugar, so it’s possible these sweeteners might actually stimulate hunger and lead to overeating.
Chewing gum as an attempt to lose weight is often just a mask for hunger. If someone is trying to satisfy a desire for food by having gum instead, it’s only a matter of time until things backfire. When we restrict our food intake it can lead to overeating, so this strategy of covering up hunger with chewing gum will not lead to long-term and sustainable changes in weight.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS TO CHEWING GUM FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Some studies show chewing gum lowers your appetite, so if you’re on a reduced-calorie diet and struggling with hunger, it could be a useful tool. However, the artificial sweeteners in the gum could trigger a craving for more sweets — and more eating.
Chewing gum can stimulate the digestive process by tricking your brain into thinking it’s receiving food. This may lead to more food cravings later. It’s like getting the engine well oiled without any gas — the body eventually wants the fuel it is now primed to handle. Thus, it could be detrimental to weight loss in the long-term.
Hunger is your body’s desire for food, and while chewing gum might make you feel like you’re eating something in the moment, it’s not actually giving you the calories and nutrients your body needs. The next time you do eat, you might be more likely to overeat (or reach for what you wanted in the first place) to make up for the calories you’re missing.
IS THERE A HEALTHY WAY TO CHEW GUM FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
For my weight-loss clients, I encourage an eating schedule of three meals and one snack evenly spaced within a day to balance blood sugar and energy. To support this, we discuss tactics to forgo unnecessary eating between meals, and chewing gum can be helpful for breaking that habit.
Chewing gum isn’t harmful if it’s something you enjoy, but it isn’t necessarily a health or weight-loss strategy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In short, experts agree that chewing gum is not the be-all-end-all of your weight-loss success. While it might help you dial down mindless eating and cut down on sugary snacks, it could also trigger more cravings and overeating later on. Your best bet is to stick with it if you already enjoy chewing gum as a between-meal treat, but don’t expect it to be a game-changer for your weight-loss efforts, says Pillepich.
Remember, gum tends to be flavored with sugar alcohols like xylitol, says Wyosnick. While they are perfectly safe, in excess, these can cause bloating and gas. If these symptoms arise, cut back on gum chewing. Similarly, if you’re experiencing any type of jaw pain you should consult your doctor or dentist.
Finally: A reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise are tried-and-true lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight and keep it off (with or without chewing gum).