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Good reasons to offer your guests chewing gum after a meal

By Elizabeth Hicks

Having guests over for dinner can be a daunting enterprise. Outside of just the regular logistics of having people over, you also need to consider each guest’s dietary restrictions, whether they’ll drink alcohol, or whether you can expect them to be on time. After a meal, we often offer our guests a dessert, followed by a coffee and maybe a digestif. One item that rarely comes up as a post-meal treat is… chewing gum, even though there are good reasons for it being included.

Outside of it just freshening your breath, chewing gum presents an opportunity to improve the gut health of your guests. In a 2018 randomized controlled trial, researchers found that xylitol-containing sugar-free chewing gum initially did not cause statistically relevant difference between the chewing and the non-chewing gum. However, “the follow-up samples of the test group showed significantly lower total salivary bacterial count than those of the control group”. Without having adverse effects, this showed that the act of chewing sugar-free gum inhibits the increase in total salivary bacteria.

In fact, the health of your gut microbiome and your overall health relates strongly to the healthiness of your mouth. 80% of our immune system is housed in our digestive system. The state of our microbiota is essential also – will we cannot digest fiber, it is important for our intestinal bacteria to have it. A well-nourished and harmonious gut microbiome contributes to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system, which in turn promotes overall bodily wellness.

In a 2010 study, the microbiome variations between European children following a western diet and children from Burkina Faso with a fiber-rich diet were examined. Through metagenomic analysis, it was observed that there were two distinct types of microbes present, with one microbe showing a higher prevalence compared to the other. This discrepancy, likely influenced by their Western diet, could potentially contribute to an increased susceptibility to obesity in the future.

Not only does your gut health improve with sugar-free gum, your teeth do also. Sugar-free gum contributes to a 20% reduction in dental plaque accumulation, a reduction in the caries-inducing bacteria Firmicutes by over 10%, and a decrease in the periodontitis-inducing pathogenic bacteria Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria by over 6%.

It should be noted that many of these results do not stem from you offering a chewing gum once to your guests, but the act of having it available instead of a mint, might very well be the start of a more thorough use that has proven benefits.

Elizabeth Hicks is the U.S Affairs Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.