Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.
This gum has just made its way on to supermarket shelves and joins other food products which put the word "vitamin" in front of the name of the food. We already have "vitamin waters" and now we have this "vitamin gum". It markets itself as "12 pieces of sugarfree goodness" providing "eight essential vitamins". Let's see how they do that.
Ingredients in order of greatest quantity:
This is an alcohol found in fruit and seaweed. It is often used as a sugar substitute for diabetics. If consumed to excess it can cause diarrhoea and gastrointestinal disturbances. Eating as little as 10g can cause diarrhoea in some children. Each piece of this gum has only 0.5g so if you ate all 12 gums in the packet you would still be okay.
This is a sugar alcohol which comes from maltose. It has 90 per cent of the sweetness of sugar but does not contain calories and does not promote tooth decay. It also has a laxative effect if you eat a lot of it. One study of rats found that changes were observed in the adrenal gland. However, these were considered to be no cause for concern.
Gum Base (contains soy lecithin)
Gum bases are trade secrets. Most gum bases will have elastomers, resins, waxes, fats, emulsifiers, fillers and antioxidants. This one obviously has some soy lecithin in it, which is a very common ingredient in foods.
Maltitol syrup (maltitol, sorbitol)
As above, these two sweeteners will be in syrup form.
The spearmint flavour in here is artificial as it doesn't state otherwise on the packet.
Vitamins (C, E, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, A, D, B12)
The added vitamins have been measured to give 25 per cent of your recommended daily intake per serve of two pieces of gum. Except for vitamin A, which is only 10 per cent.
A recent study of 297,000 people done at the University of Queensland in Australia found that of those studied the people who took vitamins A, C, E and selenium showed no benefits. Jeff Coombes, one of the study's researchers, said: "Food derived from an animal or plant origin is constructed over millions of years to be in quantities where the nutrients work synergistically together. So thinking you can take the nutrients out of that package and get similar benefits is a big stretch."
Vegetable gum (414)
This is acacia gum also known as gum Arabic and comes from the sap of the Acacia tree.
These pieces of gum are white with little green specks on the outside. The white is provided by the colouring titanium dioxide (171) found in common minerals. No adverse effects are known. The next colour is tartrazine (102), a yellow colour banned in Norway and phased out in the UK. It can aggravate asthmatics and cause itching and rhinitis. The next colour is brilliant blue (133), which is banned in 11 countries and can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics.
Sucralose, Neotame Sucralose is also known as Splenda. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories. It is made by chemically combining sugar with chlorine.
Neotame uses the same two amino acids which make aspartame but it doesn't break down in the body so will not cause reactions that aspartame can. This sweetener has only just started appearing in foods.
Emulsifier (322-soy lecithin)
This is soy lecithin, a common emulsifier.
Glazing agent (903)
This is carnauba wax, which is taken from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree. The wax will be used to give the gum a shine.
It is easy to understand that someone feeling a bit below par may see that chewing a few pieces of gum and getting some vitamins would be a good thing to do. But studies show that we are far better off getting our vitamins from food sources because of the synergy which occurs in foods to release the vitamins into our system. You could eat a banana and get more vitamin C, A and B6, or an avocado will give you more vitamin A, C, Niacin, B5, B6 and E than two pieces of this gum.
That way you won't be ingesting two artificial colourings which are banned in other countries and artificial flavours.