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  • Archive for the ‘chewing gum’ Category

    Q&A Roundup #4

    Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

    Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

    Continue Reading »

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    You Ask, I Answer:BHT/BHA

    I bought some gum today and the last items on the ingredient list are “BHT and BHA to preserve freshness.”

    Do you have any idea what that is? It sounds freaky and “chemical”-y.

    – Lori Echter
    [Location withheld]

    Chewing gum ingredient lists — especially those of sugarfree gums — are always fascinating. Artificial sweeteners and dyes abound! But, hey, at least they whiten your teeth, right?

    Since BHT and BHA are antioxidants (they prevent the oxidation of oils and fats), their presence increases the shelf life of gum and many other packaged foods.

    Yes, gum contains oils (in the form of glycerol, which impart a waxy texture).

    You are correct when you say that these two ingredients sound “chemical”-y. They ARE chemicals. BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene, while BHA is an acronym for butylated hydroxyanisole.

    Although the United States considers them safe to include in food processing, the European Union has banned BHA from all cosmetic products. BHT, meanwhile, is banned from the British food supply amidst reports of its carcinogenic risks and harmful renal effects.

    A significant problem here is not so much that the miniscule amounts of BHA or BHT in food are deadly, but rather that because so many people eat heavily processed diets, the amounts of BHA and BHT being consumed worry some researchers.

    For what it’s worth, the Food & Drug Administration claims to be conducting “further research” on BHT (they have been saying this for at least a decade).

    Whenever possible, I suggest you purchase products that use natural antioxidants to preserve freshness (i.e. tocopherols, also known as vitamin E).

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    You Ask, I Answer: Phenylketoneuria/Phenylalanine

    Every time I pick up a pack of gum, I see a warning that says “phenylketoneurics: contains phenylalanine”

    What IS phenylalanine and why would it need to have a warning associated with it?

    I’m concerned because I enjoy chewing gum while I’m working out but haven’t been lately because of this additive.

    Any insight you could give me on this would be really helpful

    – Leigh Simpson
    Clarksboro, NJ

    There is a genetic condition known as phenylketoneuria (PKU) in which people lack an enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH).

    PAH is necessary to convert phenylalanine (an essential amino acid) into tyrosine (a non-essential amino acid).

    Just to be clear: phenylalanine is NOT an artificial additive.

    Without that enzyme, phenylalanine accumulates in the body and, rather than get converted into tyrosine, is metabolized into phenylpyruvate.

    Adults diagnosed with PKU who do not monitor their phenylalanine intake put themselves at great risk for seizures, concentration problems, mental confusion, and impaired memory.

    Pregnant women with PKU need to be particularly careful, as an improper diet will negatively effect the brain development of the fetus.

    Newborn babies are screened for PKU since an inadequate diet (high in phenylalanine) causes irreversible mental disability.

    The only way to treat this is through diet modification; specifically, limiting phenylalanine intake.

    Food sources high in phenylalanine include whole grains, fish, dairy, soybeans, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. In a PKU diet, all of these foods must be completely avoided.

    Although some small companies now sell low-protein breads and cookies for the PKU population, most affected individuals rely on prescribed phenylalanine-free protein mixtures and formulas that can be incorporated into their diet.

    Since aspartame also contains high levels of phenylalanine, products containing the artificial sweetener (including diet sodas and sugar-free chewing gum) must carry a warning label.

    The only people who should be concerned with phenylalanine are those with PKU; otherwise, you have absolutely no reason to worry.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Aspartame/Chewing Gum

    How much aspartame is in chewing gum, specifically Eclipse gum?

    Should one stick to a limited number per day or can we chew to our heart’s content?

    – “MC”
    Via the blog

    The average stick of gum contains 6 to 8 milligrams of aspartame (a 12 ounce can of Diet Coke, meanwhile, provides 180 milligrams.)

    According to current guidelines, humans can safely consume 50 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight per day.

    Based on recent studies, however, a growing body of scientists are calling for this number to be lowered to as little as 10 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight per day.

    Even with the more conservative 10 milligram guidelines, though, a 130 pound individual (59 kilograms) can still safely consume 590 milligrams of aspartame per day (the equivalent of three 12-ounce cans of Diet Coke.)

    That said, I don’t like the notion of “chewing to your heart’s content.”

    Sugarless gums — including Eclipse — contain other sweeteners beside aspartame.

    One of these — which appears well before aspartame on the ingredient list, meaning it is included in higher quantities — is sorbitol.

    Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that, when consumed in large amounts, results in undesirable gastrointestinal effects, including diarrhea, acute intestinal cramps, and even unintended weight loss.

    To play it safe, I suggest capping your gum intake at 1 or 2 sticks/pieces a day.

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