I’m not a huge chewer of gum but I tend to chew on a stick around mid-day as it helps me fight the urge to eat lunch. If I eat lunch I get sleepy and if I’m sleepy I can’t work. Anyway — a stick of gum helps me work past that urge to eat. Now, the brand of gum I chew is not important — I have no particular favorite but lately I’ve been going with chewing gum brands that steer away from artificial sweeteners. Because you know — some artificial sweeteners are known to cause cancer in laboratory rats or whatever animals are being used in labs these days to test for harmful chemical agents in food.
Anyway — one of the brands I typically buy (well…typically bought) has been around for years and has always boasted its benefits in being sugar free. These days it boasts being sweetened with Xylitol which — as artificial sweeteners go — has a pretty good reputation for not making you grow a third eye or hair on back.
Thing is — although this brand of chewing gum has “sweetened with Xylitol” boldly listed on the front, if you check out the extremely small print on the side where the ingredients are posted, you’ll notice that the advertised sweetener Xylitol is actually listed third. Three other sweeteners — sorbitol and acesulfame-Kand Sucralose — which aren’t supposed to be good for you — are listed first, second and third. In my mind, this is deceptive marketing. It means the sweetener Xylitol is basically being used as window dressing. I don’t know how much Xylitol is actually being used in this particular brand of gum, but if its way down on the list of ingredients it certainly isn’t the primary sweetener.
Allow me to digress for a second to point out that according to the US Food and Drug Administration Website (www.fda.gov) Artificial sweeteners can help consumers cut down on calories and control weight, help to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and potentially prevent cavities. The site also goes on to say that “…to date, five artificial sweeteners are approved by the Food and Drug Administration: aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K (or Ace-k), neotame, and sucralose. The agency regulates artificial sweeteners as food additives, which must be approved as safe before they can be marketed…”
Of the five artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA, many grassroots consumer advocate groups point out that although aspartame is bad, acesulfame-K is like the kiss of death. The website www.holisticmed.com points out that, “…Even compared to aspartame and saccharin, acesulfame K is the worst. The additive is inadequately tested, the FDA based its approval on tests of acesulfame K that fell short of the FDA’s own standards. But even those tests indicate that the additive causes cancer in animals, which means it may increase cancer risk in humans. In l987, the FDA was urged not to approve acesulfame K, but was ignored. After the FDA gave the chemical its blessing, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org) reminded consumers that acesulfame K has been shown to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits, and dogs. Administration of 1% and 5% acetoacetamide in the diet for three months caused benign thyroid tumors in rats. The rapid appearance of tumors raises serious questions about the chemical’s carcinogenic potency.”
What really sucks is that chewing gum used to be such an innocent pleasure. And now I can’t even enjoy that because 10 yeas from now my nose might fall off or I might become sterile. What’s even worse is that my kid is an avid gum chewer — as I suppose most kids are — and now I guess I’m going to have to bring the hammer down and eliminate that little past time of hers.
If there’s a lesson to be learned by all of this I guess it’s that it’s important to read more than just thefront label of any product you purchase — whether it’s chewing gum or soda pop or whatever. The truth is out there — it just happens to be written in extremely fine print on the back or side of any package – small enough and out of sight in the hopes that you won’t waste your time trying to decipher the information.