Does chewing gum make you fat or help you lose weight?

When it comes to weight management, there are hundreds of tips out there and it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate which ones are true and which ones are not.

Thankfully (and surprisingly!) there have been quite a few studies carried out on chewing gum and the effect that it has on hunger and weight.

First a quick explanation on how weight gain works

A calorie is a unit of energy and all foods contain calories. The number of calories that different foods have depends on what they are made up of. For example, using this tool you will notice vegetables such as celery have very few calories. This is because they contain a lot of water and water has 0 calories. Nuts and seeds such as almonds on the other hand have a lot of calories because they contain a lot of fat, which is calorie dense.

When you are trying to manage your weight, it is important to monitor the difference between the number of calories that you consume (via food) and the calories you use up (via daily activities and exercise). A negative calorie intake will lead to weight loss and vice versa.

You can use the calculator on this page to determine the average number of calories you should be consuming, depending on your goals. For example a 30 year old lady who weighs 70 kg, is 150 cm tall and exercises 1 – 3 days a week will need to consume approximately 1824 calories to maintain her current weight, 1459 calories to start losing weight and 1094 calories to start losing weight fast.

Does chewing gum make you hungry?

In general the hungrier you are, the more you eat. And by doing so you end up consuming more calories which can affect your weight. So how does chewing gum affect hunger and calorie intake? Lets look at some studies:

This study investigated the effect that chewing gum had on appetite and calorie intake. 60 adults (15 lean males & 15 lean females and 15 obese males & 15 obese females) took part. The study was divided into 3 sections where the participants either chewed nothing, chewed soft gum or chewed hard gum for 15 minutes. The results showed that chewing gum did not have a significant effect on appetite. What they did find was energy intake declined in lean participants but increased in obese participants.

Results from another study supported by a grant from the Wrigley Science Institute showed otherwise. 115 men and women aged 18 – 54 and who were regular gum chewers took part. The study was split into two parts, once where they chewed gum and the other where they did not. During each part of the study they ate sandwiches for lunch that accounted for 25% of their daily calorie intake. After this they either chewed Extra® sugar-free gum for 15 minutes every hour for 3 hours or did not chew anything. They were then offered various snacks that included high sugar foods and complex carbohydrate foods. It was noted that when the participants chewed gum they felt less hunger and had fewer cravings for sweet food.

Another study, again supported by the Wrigley Science Institute and carried out by a nutrition professor at the University of Rhode Island found similar results. Participants who chewed gum for one hour (broken down into three 20 minute intervals) consumed 67 calories fewer at lunch and did not make up for it by eating more later on. Male participants also said they felt less hungry after chewing gum. The professor believes that chewing sends a signal to the part of the brain that controls appetite and might induce feelings of fullness. The study found that participants who chewed gum before and after eating used up 5% more energy than when they did not chew gum.

And this study tested the hypothesis that chewing gum before eating leads to a decrease in hunger and calorie intake. However no significant evidence was found to support the hypothesis. The study did show that chewing mint flavoured gum led to a decrease in the consumption of fruit due to its taste and could therefore lead to the consumption of junk food instead.

Finally this study carried out by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University looked into the effect chewing gum had on hunger and energy intake. 60 healthy participants (40 females and 20 males) all with a BMI in the normal range took part. They visited the laboratory for lunch on 4 separate occasions, after which they chewed gum or ate nothing at all. The gum was either sugar free or regular and was chewed for 15 minutes every hour. After 3 hours they returned to the laboratory and were offered sugary and salty snacks. It was found that after lunch, hunger increased steadily for both groups but in the gum group it was less. In the gum group, the desire for sweet snacks was also less. Also they ended up consuming 36 fewer calories.

So can chewing gum help with weight management?

The studies mentioned above are controversial and offer varied results. Some seem to suggest that chewing gum does not have an effect on hunger and calorie consumption whereas others suggest they could result in eating more.

What is important to note is that these results show that chewing gum does not have a very large effect on both weight gain or weight loss. For example two of the studies found that chewing gum led to an average of 50 fewer calories consumed. This is about the same amount that you get from eating half a medium sized banana. Cycling for 5 minutes also burns around 50 calories.

So whilst chewing gum might suppress hunger and lead to fewer calories consumed, watching your overall diet and getting regular exercise is much more important. Those 50 calories that are burned by chewing gum can easily be replaced by eating an extremely small piece of chocolate cake or drinking less than half a can of soda.

Chewing gum is not a weight loss miracle but it might help you ever so slightly. The best option would be for you to try it out and see how it affects your hunger and energy intake. If it makes you eat more, you can simply stop. And if it makes you eat less without causing you to compromise the quality of the food that you eat, great!

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