The Evolution of Chewing Gum
Posted: May 6, 2009Have you ever walked by a tree, looked at the sap oozing out of it, and thought to yourself, "Hmm. . . that tree sap looks really good, I might like to chew on some of that!"? It sounds pretty strange when you think of it like that, but that's exactly what the Mayans did when they walked by a sapodilla tree (that's where the word "sap" comes from). This is a good thing, otherwise the gum we chew today could have evolved in a very different manner!
The history of the evolution of gum is a fascinating subject and has a great story to it (at least I think it does anyway, and your kids can always use this for a science report!)
Gum chewing (although it wasn't even close to gum as we know it) has it origins back in ancient Greece. The Grecians chewed mastic gum (pronounced mas-tee-ka), which is the resin obtained from the bark of the mastic tree, a shrublike tree found mainly in Greece and Turkey. The Grecian women especially, favored chewing mastic gum to clean their teeth and sweeten their breath.
But the Mayans weren't too far behind the Greeks; they simply got their sap from a different tree. However, the tree the Mayans chose (the sapodilla tree) actually produced a sap called chicle which is exactly where much of the gum in the US comes from. Ironically enough, even though the Mayan civilization literally disappeared overnight in about the year 800, virtually the only Mayan practice that remained intact was that of chewing gum.
Meanwhile, the Native Americans of New England also used chewing gum, but this was made from the resin of spruce trees. Although chicle-based gums would ultimately win out in the US, the first gums ever marketed in the US were those based from the resin of spruce trees.
Over the mid 1800's, spruce gum was gradually replaced by paraffin wax gum to which sweeteners were added, however the one drawback of paraffin wax gum was that it required heat and moisture from the mouth in order to render it suitable for chewing.
It wasn't until 1869 that modern day gum products first appeared. The famous Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was searching for a substitute for rubber, and thought that chicle (remember the sap from the sapodilla tree that the Mayans chewed on?) might be a good fit. He contacted the American inventor Thomas Adams, and while Adams couldn't get chicle to work as rubber, he had the brilliant idea to turn it into a gum base. Thus, modern day chewing gum was born from information that the Mayans had known for thousand of years - chicle makes great gum!
As you can see, the evolution of chewing gum makes for an interesting story, but it's not until recent years have manufactures figured out how to add a variety of ingredients which are responsible for an assortment of proven health benefits (besides fresh breath). Did you know. . .?
- Chewing Gum after meals may prevent heartburn Source: Digestive Disease Week. Orlando, Florida
- Chewing sugar-free gum raises your metabolic rate by 20%, resulting in burning the equivalent of an extra 11 pounds of extra weight each year! Source: New England Journal of Medicine. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
- Chewing gum can improve long-term and working memory Source: British Psychological Society in Blackpool, Lancashire, UK
Now, from all you've learned about chewing gum, here's what I think is the best part. As you know, I've founded my career on helping to stop bad breath. And let me assure you. . . this is no simple task. Bad breath comes in different forms, different odors, and is caused by different strains of anaerobic bacteria.
So before I tell you about the following ingredients in my chewing gum, let me preface this with one statement.
If you have chronic halitosis, all the gum in the world is not going to stop it! You must be using an oxygenating oral rinse, a non SLS toothpaste, and following the instructions rigorously at http://www.therabreath.com/bonus_directions.asp.
However, if you only have occasional bad breath, or dry mouth towards the end of the day, or are simply looking for a solution to neutralize odors after a particularly offensive meal, or before a special moment, then I think you'll find that my gum will work wonders!
Now, what exactly goes into chewing gum that is effective?
First, I've included zinc gluconate. Zinc is a known inhibitor of acid production by mutans streptococci (the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath). These bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so when you neutralize acids you kill bacteria (and you help prevent that annoying tinny, metallic taste). In addition, a high level of oral acids is bad for your tooth enamel, so you're helping to keep a brighter, whiter smile as well. Zinc ions also perform an interesting function when they meet anaerobic bacteria - they clog up certain receptors on the outer cell wall of anaerobic bacteria, so that that bugs cannot create sulfur compounds. (Zinc gluconate is the best tasting of all the zinc compounds which can be used in oral products.) Lastly, zinc gluconate (and only zinc gluconate) has been proven to restore sour/bitter/metallic tastes. Studies have shown that people with long term taste disorders can experience a rejuvenation of their taste buds after long-term use of Zinc gluconate gum or lozenges.
Second, I've used Xylitol as a sweetener, instead of sugar or Aspartame (Nutrasweet) like so many other chewing gums.
It is a sugar alcohol, with makes it safe for diabetics because the body doesn't react to sugar alcohols the same way that it does to sucrose or glucose (found in most of the popular kiddy-flavored gums, such as Big Red, Juicy Fruit, etc.)
Most importantly, it has an interesting property in that it has been proven to fight tooth decay and is the only "sweetener" that does so - the complete opposite of sugar - which oral bacteria use to generate acids, which lead to tooth decay. NEVER chew gum that contains sugar if you want to maintain fresh breath!
Simply put, a good amount of xylitol provides a healthy environment for an oral ecosystem.
Finally, there are oxygenating compounds, specially designed to work with chewing gum base, to gently bathe your mouth and throat with oxygenating molecules designed to neutralize any and all volatile sulfur compounds, located in your mouth, throat, tonsils, and even in the upper reaches of your esophagus. Every time you swallow, your saliva - now loaded with oxygen and zinc molecules - bathes the back of your tongue, throat, tonsils area, and even the very beginning of your esophagus, a formerly ignored hiding place for anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria.
So while it's true that chewing gum has been around in many forms for many years, it's NEVER been as beneficial as it is today.