You probably have your favorite flavor when it comes to your gum of choice—you may go classic peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, or bubble gum. The flavors are endless, but the pleasure of chewing gum doesn’t just stop at which flavor you pick up.
In fact, many people rely on chewing gum for weight loss. Some say it helps them control cravings. For others, it keeps them from eating otherwise calorie-laden junk. But the debate about whether chewing gum is a legit (and healthy) weight loss strategy is more encompassing than a “yes” or “no” answer.
“There is mixed data on whether chewing gum can produce weight loss,” says Danielle Staub, MS, RD, CDN, Clinical Dietitian at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Breaking down the different sides of the debate, let’s look at the evidence that supports—or refutes—whether chewing gum can help you lose weight.
First, the positives: evidence that chewing gum supports weight loss.
“Chewing gum may aid in weight loss by reducing cravings and subsequent calorie intake, increasing energy expenditure and by reducing stress levels,” says Staub.
One of chewing gum’s biggest benefits is its ability to help with behavior modification when it comes to mindless eating.
“For some people, it can be really helpful in weight loss if you struggle with mindless eating. If you gravitate toward pantry-based items that are full of empty calories, then that’s a great time to swap that behavior for a piece of gum,” says Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist at Vital RD.
Or if you’re a big snacker (who especially craves sweet things), gum can be a no-brainer to cut sugar cravings and simply keep your mouth preoccupied.
“Chewing gum may be a useful tool for someone who constantly feels the need to snack or who frequently engages in emotional eating. It can be used to distract someone from mindlessly eating outside of scheduled eating times and can potentially decrease cravings for sweets,” says Staub.
“For people who tend to eat when they are stressed, chewing a piece of gum could offer a good (calorie-free) solution,” she adds.
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Does chewing gum make you fat or stifle weight loss progress?
But chewing gum to help you lose weight may also come with some negatives.
“According to one study, chewing gum might potentially discourage consumption of fruit and reduce diet quality,” says Staub.
Of course, if you’re skipping meals and hoping that gum will offer some sort of relief from hunger, this is not a healthy weight-loss strategy.
“For some people chewing gum between meals can help to reduce grazing and manage cravings. However, many people benefit from eating planned snacks during the day as a way to stabilize energy and prevent cravings,” says Staub. “We should make sure to not swap out purposeful snacks for a stick of chewing gum as this may derail weight loss efforts in the long run.”
And gum can also mess with your gut.
“For those who have digestive complaints such as bloating or gas, chewing gum might not be the best option. Chewing frequently introduces more air into your GI tract,” says Staub.
While sugar-free gum is also low in calories, the artificial sweeteners found in most are also controversial when it comes to gut health.
“Most gums contain artificial sweeteners which can disturb the gut microbiome, and possibly lead to increased hunger signals and increased fat storage,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
If your sugar-free gum contains sugar alcohols as a sweetener, it could also leave your stomach upset.
“Furthermore, sugar-free gum contains sugar alcohols, which can ferment in the GI tract and cause gas, bloating and alteration in bowel movements,” says Staub.
Which gum is the best?
If you’re looking to work on mindful eating between or after meals, stick with mint gum.
“Mint flavored gum has more palate-cleansing properties (that could reduce cravings),” says Crandall Snyder.
While you may want to stay away from those with artificial sweeteners, those with sugar alcohols may still be the best choice depending on your stomach. But if they bloat you, go with a gum that has the least amount of added sugar.
“Sugar-free gum is a good option if you can tolerate sugar alcohols. There are natural gums on the market that have minimal added sugar as well,” says Staub.
Bottom line: “There is nothing inherent, ingredient-wise, in gum that would foster weight loss,” says Auslander Moreno.
However, if you can swap out a “bad” behavior (like mindless or emotional eating) for one that saves you from crushing extra calories or added sugar, chewing gum could have an impact on your weight loss.
“[Chewing gum] may be good for some, but not for others when it comes to weight loss. It’s important to note that chewing gum on its own is unlikely to result in significant weight loss unless you also work on improving dietary habits and incorporating routine exercise,” says Staub.
If you’re truly looking to lose weight, popping in a stick of gum simply won’t cut it in the long run.
“Planning ahead meals and snacks can be extremely helpful for people trying to lose weight,” says Staub. “Eating on a regular schedule and avoiding meal skipping is also important for keeping stable energy and reducing cravings during the day, as is drinking plenty of water.”