We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on, or near) themselves.
This edition: Bazooka Bubble Gum (a product of Tunisia), which is made from nine separate ingredients that we’ve broken down as they appear online. Now, you may be wondering, “Bazooka Bubble Gum? With the comics? The crap I chewed on like 30 years ago?” Yeah, the crap you chewed on like 30 years ago! It made a comeback just last year. Should you chew on it, or should it have stayed in the 1980s? Only one way to find out…
The Bazooka Bubble Gum Ingredients
1) Sugar: Each piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum has three grams of sugar, which may not be much, but sugary gum can certainly increase your chances of experiencing tooth decay, so sugar-free gum is generally considered to be a better choice.
2) Gum Base: Gum base is a combination of food-grade polymers (a string of molecules that usually contain carbon and hydrogen), waxes and softeners, which provide a tasteless, non-nutritive slate for the sweeteners and flavors in Bazooka Bubble Gum.
3) Glucose Syrup: Glucose syrup is made by breaking down glucose (aka sugar) molecules in starchy foods, like wheat or corn, through hydrolysis, a chemical reaction that essentially results in a concentrated, sweet liquid with a very, very high glucose content. It mainly works as a sweetener and a thickener.
4) Natural & Artificial Flavor: While natural flavors are literally flavors derived from an actual food source — i.e., cherry flavoring taken from a real cherry — artificial flavors are chemical compounds created in a lab that mimic a natural flavor in some way. While that may sound unhealthy, as physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, told us during our exploration of the ingredients in nacho-flavored Doritos, these flavorings are added in such small quantities that they shouldn’t cause you any harm.
5) Glycerine: Glycerine is a byproduct during the production of soap from animal fats, as well as the making of biodiesel from plant oils. It acts as a humectant (that is, it helps retain moisture) and is there to stop the gum from drying out and becoming hard.
6) Citric Acid: Citric acid naturally occurs in citrus fruits and is often added to foods to extend their shelf life.
7) Soy Lecithin: Soy lecithin is a component of fat found in, you guessed it, soy. It’s typically added to food products as an emulsifier, which means it helps the numerous ingredients found in this chewing gum mix together. In some cases, soy lecithin can also help foods stay fresh while they sit on the shelves.
8) BHT: BHT, or butylated hydroxytoluene, is a common preservative added to prevent products from spoiling. Studies continue to go back and forth about whether or not it’s carcinogenic, but chances are you wouldn’t consume enough of it while chewing gum to cause you much harm, anyway.
9) Red 40 Lake: While certain artificial colors (red 40 being one of them) are known to be carcinogenic, Shanahan again assures us that a normal person’s liver should have no problem breaking down whatever miniscule amounts of coloring we consume with our food.
Sure, sugar-free gum may be a better choice for your teeth and general health. But in the context of Halloween, maybe think about this way: More time chewing Bazooka Bubble Gum means less time filling your stomach with Halloween candy that’s even worse for you.
I’d call that a win.