How Old Is Chewing Gum?

Chewing gum has a long history dating back 9,000 years. The oldest found chewing gum, a piece of bark tar with well-defined tooth prints, dates back 5,000 years. In ancient times the Greeks chewed chews while the Eskimos chewed fat, the South Americans chewed coca leaves, the first US settlers chewed tobacco leaves, the Native Americans chewed pine sugar and the Mayan Indians chewed the chicle. Chicle is a latex sap derived from a native Central American tree called sapodilla. It is a form of gum that many people chewed before the Second World War. The first chewers looked for gum due to the desire to nibble, clean teeth or breathe better. In the early days, most of the chewing gum appeared naturally. However, as demand for chewing gum increased after the Second World War, chemists began looking for an alternative ingredient to use in the preparation of rubber.

Origin of the modern chewing gum

Modern chewing gum was marketed for the first time in the United States. John B. Curtis gathered the practice of Native American chewing gum from the sap of zucchini and developed the spruce gum of the State of Maine, first sold in 1848. Its popularity was soon superseded by paraffin-produced rubber , a petroleum product. However, these first gums were not sweet, and the chewers repeatedly dipped the powdered gum to achieve the desired sweetness. The first flavored chewing gum was an invention of John Colgan in the 1860s. Colgan was a pharmacist based in Louisville, Kentucky. He made chewing gum by mixing icing sugar and the taste of tolu. Later, he led the production and packaging of pulp-based rubber.

Chicle, intended for use as a gum, ended up being an ingredient in Adams New York’s gum sold in 1871. The brand’s owner was Thomas Adams. In the following years, other chewing gum brands were born as the Black Jack in 1884, the Chiclets in 1899 and the popular Wigley’s Spearmint Gum. These rubber varieties still exist until today.

Today companies produce chewing gum by combining sugar, colors, sweeteners, rubber base, flavorings and a coating of hard polyol. Softeners such as glycerin or vegetable oil are added to the gum to make it moist. It is interesting to note that more than 1,000 different varieties of rubber are produced and sold only in the United States. Statistics show that children spend about half a billion dollars on rubber!

Benefits of chewing gum

Chewing gum cleans the teeth. As it is chewed, the gum stimulates saliva production. Saliva in the mouth will neutralize the acids present. As a result, the teeth are less prone to tooth decay. One of the chewing gum sweeteners called xylitol normally inhibits the Streptococcus mutans bacterium responsible for caries. However, chewing gum cannot replace the importance of using dental floss and brushing teeth.Moreover, since chewing gum is a physical act, it keeps an alert and relaxed. It also reduces a person’s appetite for snacks. Chewing gum also cures halitosis which is halitosis.

Another advantage of chewing gum is that the rubber retains its quality for a long time. In fact, unlike most products that are often labeled with expiration dates, most countries do not consider it a necessity when it comes to chewing gum. Chewing gums have a very low moisture content of about 3-6%. Furthermore, when it remains in a stable environment for a long time, it loses its flavor and becomes brittle. However, it rarely becomes dangerous for consumption.

by Abdullah Sam
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