The combination of hands-on activity and junk food is nearly irresistible to middle school students. Bubble gum, which is considered an illicit item in most schools, is an especially attractive material that can be used to teach the scientific method within the classroom.
A quick read of the nutrition label on a typical pack of bubble gum will show that one piece has a mass of about 8 grams, and of that mass, about six grams is sugar. Sugar dissolves readily in water, and about equally well in saliva. Did you ever wonder why gum loses its flavor so quickly? Most of the flavor in gum is due to the sugar, which dissolves in saliva and is swallowed, never to be tasted again. You may have also noticed that the size of a wad of gum decreases considerably in the first 10 or 15 minutes of chewing. This change in volume is due to that same loss of sugar. In the case of sugarless gum, the sweetener used is typically a synthetic compound known as sorbitol, which may be listed as “sugar alcohol” on the nutrition label. It occurs in about the same proportion as does sugar in regular gum.
In this activity, students conduct an initial, teacher-led experiment to test the hypothesis, “It is sugar that gives gum its flavor, and during chewing, the sugar is lost, which makes the gum get smaller as it loses flavor.”
After analyzing the results of the initial experiment, students are then in a position to generate their own questions about gum, many of which can be answered with similar, simple experiments. It is when students ask their own questions and devises ways to answer them scientifically, that students begin to truly appreciate the scientific method. The actual percent composition was 58%.
What is the percentage of sugar in bubblegum?
Most of the flavoring in gum is due to the sugar or other sweetener it contains. As gum is chewed, the sugar dissolves and is swallowed. After a piece of gum loses its flavor, it can be left to dry at room temperature, and then the difference between its initial (unchewed) mass and its chewed mass can be used to calculate the percentage of sugar in the gum. This demonstration experiment is used to generate new questions about gums and their ingredients, and students can then design and execute new experiments based on their own questions.
If it has sugar, your chewing gum may raise your risk of tooth decay. The bacteria in your mouth metabolize sucralose and other carbohydrates. This can erode the enamel layer on the outside of your teeth.
But chewing gum with sugar once in a while doesn’t pose major health risks, especially if you have good oral hygiene. Sugar-free gum has less than 0.5 grams of sugars per serving and uses alternative sweeteners. Gum labels may mention sweeteners like:
If your gum uses certain flavorings like citric acid, it may lower plaque buildup in your mouth. But keep in mind that if the gum also has sugar, the positive effects may be canceled out.
Chewing triggers your mouth to make more saliva. This protects your mouth from decay and erosion because saliva acts as a buffer for your teeth. More saliva may carry away bacteria and acid that builds up on your teeth.
Health benefits of chewing gum
The benefits of chewing gum don’t stop in your mouth. More saliva can help balance the acid in your esophagus, easing acid reflux symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when stomach acid flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. Laryngopharyngeal reflux is when stomach acid moves up your esophagus to your throat. Chewing gum can also help with dry mouth, at least for a short time. But like reflux, it’s not a cure
Other health benefits of chewing gum include:
- Burn calorie: You can burn 11 calories every hour you chew gum. Over time, these add up.
- Improve your memory: Chewing gum increases blood flow to your brain, which can help improve your memory.
- Struggling with sleep: If you feel tired, chew some gum to stay alert.
- Relieve nausea: If you feel sick, saliva production from chewing gum can help you feel better. This is especially true for motion sickness and morning sickness during pregnancy.
We know above that bubble gum contains about 54% sugar. But Chewing sugar-free gum is better for dental health than chewing gum with sugar. Sugar-free gum has been shown to reduce cavities and plaque production. But it isn’t a substitute for good dental habits, such as brushing teeth after meals.
The ingredients in sugar-free gum can have some side effects, which make it a bad choice for some people. Make sure to read the label of any sugar-free gum you plan to chew before using it.