It’s not something I ever think about but I have been chewing gum on and off (mostly on) since I was in school. It’s not quite as natural as breathing but I hardly ever think about it, it’s just an accepted thing. So what, right? “Well”, I thought, “I chew this stuff virtually every day and I don’t know an awful lot about it and I don’t like not knowing about something that I’m putting in my mouth.”
Here are some of the things I thought I knew about chewing gum:
- Chewing gum originates from America.
- It was probably invented in the 1950’s.
- It comes from a plant.
- It’s secretly bad for you.
- It doesn’t really wrap around your heart and kill you if you swallow it.
Was I right? Well, let’s have a look.
Part 1 – Chewing Gum originates from America.
In 2007 an archeological student from Derby University discovered a piece of Neolithic chewing gum on a dig in Finland. The chewing gum was around 5000 years old and came complete with some pretty good tooth imprints.
It is well known that many cultures throughout history, such as the ancient Greeks, Mayans and American Indians, chewed gum.
Part 2 – It was probably invented in the 1950’s.
Well, clearly not, as we learned in part 1. It is true, however, that Chewing Gum was first sold commercially in America by John Curtis but that was in 1848 – more than 100 years earlier than my ignorant assumption.
Part 3 – It comes from a plant.
Say what? I really didn’t expect to be wrong about this. Chewing Gum has been made from various tree saps, resins and barks throughout history right up until the 1900s. The stuff we chew now is almost always made from synthetic rubber, wax and plastic. Sweeteners and flavours are also added. There are some gums that are made from plant extracts but these are uncommon.
Part 4 – Chewing Gum is secretly bad for you.
Am I wrong about everything? One of the main uses for Chewing Gum, throughout history, has been as a natural antiseptic and for fresh breath. Even the gum we chew today, which is made from a synthetic gum base, has known health benefits and a wide range of practical uses. As well as being proven to reduce cavities and plaque it can be used to provide the body with various beneficial things such as Guarana, Ginseng and Green tea (anything that begins with ‘G’).
According to the U.S. military, gum chewing also improves concentration.
Obviously some gum, like gumballs & bubble gum (which is heavily covering in sugar) poses a genuine risk to your teeth but generally speaking gum is found to be of benefit.
Part 5 – It doesn’t really wrap around your heart and kill you if you swallow it.
Of course not. Chewing Gum passes through the system at more or less the same speed as anything else, just don’t make a habit of swallowing it.
That proves that I didn’t really know much about chewing gum but makes me feel a little better about it all. I live in a permanent and probably unnecessary fear of having bad breath and I think that is what has led to my habitual chewing gum addiction. The best type of gum to buy is one that contains Xylitol, a natural sweetener which has shown significant oral health benefits.
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The one massive downside of chewing gum is when people discard it on pavements. It’s not difficult to put it in a bin or wrap it in a bit of paper or a tissue – that’s certainly what I always do. It’s quite horrible when you notice just how much gum there is on the pavement especially outside clubs and even if it gets removed it takes no time at all to be covered over again. There is but one positive story relating to discarded gum and that is the one of Ben Wilson, the artist who travels around painting tiny pictures on chewing gum which has been dropped and trampled onto the pavement.