Gum is a popular confectionery that many people enjoy chewing. It comes in a variety of flavors and is often used as breath fresheners, stress relievers, and to keep the mouth occupied. Gum is made up of several ingredients, but what’s gum made out of? In this article, we’ll be unwrapping the mystery of gum and exploring the components that make up this delicious treat.
The Origins of Gum
The history of gum dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Native Americans, and Mayans all used gum for medicinal and recreational purposes. The Greeks used mastic gum to treat a variety of ailments, while the Mayans used gum from the sapodilla tree to whiten their teeth.
However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that gum became a popular confectionery. In 1869, a businessman named Thomas Adams began mass-producing gum in the United States. He experimented with different flavors and ingredients and eventually created the first commercially successful gum.
The Ingredients in Gum
Gum is made up of several key ingredients, including:
- Gum base
The main ingredient in gum is the gum base. This is the component that gives gum its chewy texture. The gum base is a blend of different materials, including:
The elastomers are what give gum its elasticity, while the resins provide the stickiness. Fats and oils are used to soften the gum base and make it easier to chew. The exact composition of the gum base can vary between manufacturers and can be a closely guarded secret.
Gum also contains sweeteners to give it its flavor. The most common sweeteners used in gum are:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Acesulfame potassium
Sugar is the most traditional sweetener used in gum, but companies are increasingly using artificial sweeteners like aspartame and acesulfame potassium as a way to reduce the calorie content of gum.
Gum comes in a wide variety of flavors to appeal to different tastes. Some of the most popular flavors include:
- Fruit flavors (cherry, grape, watermelon, etc.)
- Mint and fruit combinations
The exact flavorings used can vary between manufacturers, but they are typically a mix of natural and artificial flavorings.
Softeners are used in gum to keep it from becoming hard and brittle over time. The most common softener used is glycerin. Glycerin acts as a humectant, which means it helps to retain moisture in the gum and keep it soft.
Colors are often added to gum to make it more visually appealing. The most common colors used are FD&C (Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics) dyes, which are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food products.
Gum also contains preservatives to extend its shelf life. The most common preservative used is BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), which helps to prevent the gum from going rancid over time.
Chewing Gum vs. Bubble Gum
There are two main types of gum – chewing gum and bubble gum.
Chewing gum has a firmer texture and is meant to be chewed for a longer period of time. It typically comes in flavors like mint and is marketed as a breath freshener or stress reliever.
Bubble gum, on the other hand, is softer and more pliable. It is designed to be blown into bubbles and usually comes in fruity flavors.
The Differences in Ingredients
The ingredients in chewing gum and bubble gum are similar, but there are a few key differences. Bubble gum typically has a higher sugar content than chewing gum and contains more softeners to make it easier to blow bubbles. It also contains a higher proportion of flavors and colors to enhance its appeal to kids.
Gum is made up of several components, including gum base, sweeteners, flavors, softeners, colors, and preservatives. Different manufacturers can use different ingredients and ratios to create unique gum flavors and textures.
Next time you’re chewing a piece of gum, take a moment to appreciate the science and artistry that goes into creating this popular treat.
- Q: Is gum bad for your teeth?
- A: Chewing gum can actually be beneficial for your teeth. It stimulates saliva production, which helps to neutralize acid and clean your teeth. However, gum that contains sugar can lead to tooth decay if not brushed or rinsed away.
- Q: Can chewing gum help with bad breath?
- A: Yes, chewing gum can be an effective way to freshen your breath. It helps to stimulate saliva production, which washes away bacteria and odors from your mouth.
- Q: How long should I chew a piece of gum?
- A: It’s recommended that you chew a piece of gum for about 20 minutes to get the full benefits. After that, the flavor will begin to fade, and the gum may become hard and difficult to chew.
- Q: Is it true that gum takes seven years to digest if swallowed?
- A: No, this is a myth. While gum is not digestible, it will typically pass through your digestive system within a few days without causing any harm.
- Q: Can I swallow my gum?
- A: It’s not recommended that you swallow your gum. While it won’t stick to your stomach or intestines, it can cause intestinal blockages if you swallow large amounts over time.
Castillo, R. (2018). The history of gum. Available at: https://www.explainthatstuff.com/chewinggum.html. [Accessed 10 Aug 2021].
Covault, C. (2008). What’s in chewing gum? Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-s-in-chewing-gum/. [Accessed 10 Aug 2021].
US Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Food additives & ingredients – chewing gum. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-ingredients/chewing-gum. [Accessed 10 Aug 2021].