Could Chewing Gum Curb Children's Sugar Cravings?

Children hopped up on sugar can be a formidable foe for parents, guardians, family members, friends, or babysitters seeking to retain any semblance of sanity and calm. While limiting their sugar intake is a simple fix in concept, the execution can be challenging and often incurs the pendulum swinging too far the other way, enraging little tykes who are now being deprived of a hankering of their preferred sustenance. So how do you balance this quandary? According to Givaudan and Sweet Victory, the answer is gum.

Givaudan partnered with Israeli food tech startup Sweet Victory to develop a chewing gum for children to curtail their sugar cravings, per Food Dive. Sweet Victory's product, which should be available this year in the US, is touted as "a delicious mint-flavored patented chewing gum, made with the sugar-busting power of organic gymnema, a 100% natural plant leaf extract." The gum blocks sugar receptors on your tongue, an effect which can last up to two hours. 

Food Dive notes that Sweet Victory's tutti frutti-flavored gum contains "an ayuverdic herb that blocks the sugar receptors on the tongue." The product's sweet, fruity flavor was chosen in order to hide the herb's bitter flavor, which wasn't masked as well (nor as well received by children) with a mint flavor. Food Dive notes that over-consumption of white sugar in children can cause "metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease" — and, not to mention, spoil their appetite for dinner (and sometimes cause them to wreak havoc throughout the house).

How will the gum work?

A press release from Sweet Victory co-founder Shimrit Lev notes that "the atomic arrangement of bioactive gymnemic acid molecules is actually similar to that of glucose molecules," which can effectively mimic the effects of sugar, essentially providing a sensation to the taste buds that is akin to consuming sugar. The herb is said to be entirely child-safe and also contains anti-diabetic properties.

In addition to the gum, though, Food Dive also references a Dutch research study which centers around a unique idea that might also reduce sugar consumption. The study references the fact that "naturally occurring aromas can reduce the sugar content of flavored beverages while keeping the sweet taste," with the aroma approximating a chemical change that would make the consumer believe that the product is sweeter than it actually is. The study used ethyl hexanoate, which is a "natural aroma synthesized in apples during ripening," and showed that people who smelled the aroma while consuming a beverage believed it was much sweeter than it actually was. A research center connected the "interactions between smell and taste," nothing that they "could start on the tongue rather than in the brain." This allows the power of aroma to have a ton of influence over actual flavor — or in this case — sweetness, per Food Dive.

The potential downsides

This study via Food Dive also opens up tons of potential ideas for future products which may bolster sweet aromas while reducing the actual sugar content in a product, which would be a win-win across the board. As noted, though, that this may cause an influx in synthetic and non-natural ingredients, which would certainly be one downside of the proposition. Overall, though, let's be honest: this could be immensely beneficial for sugar consumers of all ages, too — not just children!

Both the gum product and the proposed aroma theory are fascinating glimpses into the world of food science and the attempts to make our children's foods more healthful, while also being mindful of our own consumption. We shall see how potentially successful the product(s) might be. 

You know what they say, though, "kids say the darnedest things" — so we're guaranteed to at least get reviews chock-full of candor, no matter whether that's good or bad.