- The chemical responsible for the minty flavour in gum makes healthy food unappealing
- People who chew gum eat fewer meals – but not less calories – because they chose unhealthy foods
By Emma Innes
PUBLISHED: 08:59 EST, 29 March 2013 | UPDATED: 08:59 EST, 29 March 2013
It may well give you minty-fresh breath, but chewing gum could also cause weight gain, new research suggests.
Scientists have discovered that people who chew gum eat more high calorie sweet foods.
This is because the chemical responsible for the minty flavour of gum makes savoury foods, especially fruit and vegetables, taste unpleasant.
Co-author of the study, Christine Swoboda, a doctoral candidate in nutrition at Ohio State University, told LiveScience: ‘The chemical change is the same reason why when you brush your teeth and then drink orange juice, it tastes bad.
‘We were also interested in seeing whether this helps with weight loss.’
To carry out the study, Ms Swoboda and her colleague Jennifer Temple of the University of Buffalo, enrolled 44 volunteers.
Each candidate was asked to play a game in exchange for food.
Some played for pieces of fruit, while others played for crisps and sweets.
Before taking part in the experiment, half of the volunteers had chewed either fruit gum or mint gum.
It was discovered that those who had chewed mint flavoured gum were significantly less likely to play for as long to win fruit as they were to win the junk food.
Those who had been eating fruit flavoured gum were also found to be less interested in the fruit but the results were not as conclusive.
The researchers also discovered that people who chew gum tend to eat fewer meals – but that this does not translate to fewer calories.
People who chew gum tend to eat fewer meals but that this does not translate to fewer calories
They determined this in a second experiment during which the volunteers were asked to keep a food diary.
For part of the time, the volunteers were asked to chew mint gum before meals, while for the rest of the time they were simply asked to note down their food intake.
The food diaries showed that while chewing gum, people ate fewer meals but that they did not consume fewer calories as a result.
Ms Swoboda said that the explanation could be that the menthol in mint interacts with nutrients in fruits and vegetables to create a bitter flavour and that this was making healthy foods seem unappealing.