13 Nov Are functional gums worth chewing on?
Is chewing gum the answer to better health? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University believe that functional chewing gum is an effective way of delivering much needed vitamins to the body.
Back in 2015, randomised controlled studies done on post-operative colorectal surgery patients, indicated that gum chewing could in fact speed up the recovery of intestinal functions.
For many years chewing gum has been marketed as offering health-enhancing benefits to consumers, but not until recently has the actual study and proof of this been confirmed!
Throughout the United States, 15% of all chewing gum varieties are sold with the promise of delivering essential vitamins to the body. With this in mind, researchers wanted to test that the theory held up. The long and short of it? The results validate that functional chewing is indeed an effective way of supplementing the body with vitamins.
The proof is in the percentage
Due to the fact that chewing gum is both a pleasant and habitual practice for many people, functional vitamin enriched chewing gum could help reduce issues with vitamin deficiency across the globe, which is described as an epidemic in today’s day and age.
But to prove the efficacy of vitamin absorption from chewing gum, researchers at Pennsylvania State University put 15 different subjects to the test. These 15 test subjects were asked to chew two off-the-shelf functional gums, while they were measured for 8 different vitamins in their saliva. In a separate batch of research, the levels of 7 different vitamins were measured in their plasma.
The research found that vitamins A1 (retinol), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3, B6, folic acid, B12, ascorbic acid and vitamin E were all released into the saliva. Similarly, results in the plasma were also positive. Levels of retinol increased from 75 – 96%, vitamin B6 from 906 – 1077%, ascorbic acid from 64-141% and vitamin E from 418 – 502%.
Dr Joshua Lambert, professor of Food Science at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences believes that improving the release of fat soluble vitamins in functional chewing gums is a major area for development and growth amongst many chewing gum manufacturers, worldwide.
For the most part, water soluble vitamins such as B6, C, A and vitamin E were best absorbed into the plasma, when compared to the results from placebo gum.
Future focus on functional chewing gum
It’s important to point out that even though the results of the study were extremely positive, these are merely the results from one given day. The real proof of the pudding is in the long-term benefits of chewing on functional gum. Ideally, subjects with a vitamin deficiency need to be tested by chewing on vitamin-enriched functional gum for an extended period, then re-tested for an increase in vitamin levels in the blood.
Another concern is the palpability of functional chewing gum, and the limit at which vitamins can be added to chewing gums before they become unpleasant to the consumer. This is a fine line and will require much time and research by manufacturers.
Dr Lambert expressed that future development of functional chewing gum would have to focus on what is known as encapsulation technology to perfect the ingredients, composition and efficacy of the chewing gum.
At present, most functional chewing gums on the market contain ingredients such as botanical extracts and trace vitamins. Despite it being a rather niche supplemental category, functional gum is forecast to outshine the sugar-free gum sector by 14% and U.S $3bn by the end of 2018!