Chewing gum may be effective for delivering vitamins, study shows
PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.: It doesn’t take much searching on the Internet to find that chewing gum is a contentious subject. In a recent study that could help shine a new light on the topic, researchers from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences set out to uncover if some gum varieties that promise to provide health-enhancing supplements to users, were indeed effective at doing so.
Despite a number of commercially available chewing gums claiming to contain vitamins, the effectiveness of chewing these gums to deliver vitamins to the plasma had not been well-studied. Using just two products that are currently available, the researchers conducted a single-blind randomized test and then a single-blind randomized placebo test on 15 healthy individuals.
To test the effectiveness of the gum, the team measured the levels of eight vitamins released into the saliva of the participants. Then, in a separate experiment on the same subjects, they measured the levels of seven vitamins in the participants' plasma.
With vitamin deficiency becoming more of a problem in the U.S., Prof. Joshua Lambert, Associate Professor of Food Science and Co-director at the Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health at Penn State, believes the findings of his study could be a possible approach to tackling the issue.
"I was slightly surprised that no one had done a study like this before, given the number of supplement-containing gum products on the market," Lambert said, "but there is no requirement that nutritional gums be tested for efficacy, since they fall into the category of dietary supplements."
According to the results, retinol, thiamine, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine, folic acid, cyanocobalamin, ascorbic acid, and α-tocopherol were all released into the saliva by chewing. Regarding the plasma vitamin concentrations, retinol went from 75 to 96 percent, pyridoxine from 906 to 1,077 percent, ascorbic acid from 64 to 141 percent and α-tocopherol from 502 to 418 percent after chewing the supplemented gums.
Additionally, the research demonstrated that water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins B6 and C were increased in the plasma of participants who chewed supplemented gum compared to participants who chewed the placebo gum. In supplemented gum chewers, researchers also saw increases in the plasma of several fat-soluble vitamins such as the vitamin-A derivative retinol and the vitamin-E derivative α-tocopherol. Due to the water-soluble vitamins being almost wholly extracted from the gum during the process of chewing, Lambert said these findings were the most significant of the study.
"This study was done in an acute setting—for a day we have shown that chewing supplemented gum bumps up vitamin levels in blood plasma," noted Lambert. He continued, "But we haven't shown that this will elevate plasma levels for vitamins long-term. Ideally, that would be the next study. Enroll people who have some level of deficiency for some of the vitamins in supplemented gum and have them chew it regularly for a month to see if that raises levels of the vitamins in their blood."
The study, titled “Vitamin-supplemented chewing gum can increase salivary and plasma levels of a panel of vitamins in healthy human participants,” will be published in the November 2018 issue of the Journal of Functional Foods.