O, for a stick of sugary gum!
Among the interesting things I learned while reporting this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about chewing gum's role in weight management was that those of us who prefer traditional sugar-sweetened gum to sugar-free are in the minority -- and, for the most part, out of luck.
Gilbert Leveille, executive director of the Wrigley Science Institute, told me that "Clearly the consumer preference has been for sugar-free gum," largely because of what he called the "perceived effect" of sugared gum on the increased incidence of dental caries (cavities, to you and me) in children. (That relationship, he noted, doesn't in fact hold true.) Nonetheless, it's increasingly hard to find a decent stick of sugar-sweetened gum on store shelves. Even Wrigley's traditionally sugared brands such as Juicy Fruit, Big Red and Doublemint now include, in addition to sugar, a tad of the artificial sweetener aspartame as flavor enhancer.
As I've written before, I don't care for artificial sweeteners. Whether they're safe to use or not, I just don't like the way they taste or feel in my mouth, and I don't enjoy the headache I often get after consuming them. I used to enjoy an occasional piece of sugar-sweetened gum; the little bit of sugar (10 calories' worth, as opposed to the 5 calories per stick in sugar-free gum) often was just enough to keep me from craving a bigger dose of sweets.
Sure, there are still sugar-laden gums on the market. But what grownup really wants to chew a big wad of Hubba Bubba or Bubble Yum? (Okay, this grownup, but only once in a great while....) In any case, even Wrigley's Hubba Bubba has artificial sweeteners now, too.
I find the mass switch to artificial sweeteners particularly interesting in light of Americans' apparent insatiable thirst for calorically sweetened (via sugar or, more often, high fructose corn syrup) sodas. We drink so much of the stuff that many experts think taxing sweetened sodas is a good way to attack the national obesity problem. It would appear that consumer preference is not quite as strong for sugar-free soft drinks.
Do you miss sugar-sweetened chewing gum? How do you reconcile the demand for sweetened sodas with the demand for artificially sweetened gum? While you're chewing on that, please take part in today's poll.
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