As sugar has been phased out of chewing gum, various artificial sweeteners have moved in to take its place. Each sweetener has its proponents and foes, but the most controversial of all seems to be Aspartame. Depending on who you believe, Aspartame “has been found to be safe for human consumption” or responsible for “degenerative diseases and neurological afflictions“.
Clouding the issue is the fact that proponents of Aspartame have a lot of money and power. It also seems suspicious that Aspartame use has so proliferated among sugarless gums that it’s difficult to find any sugarless gum, at regular retail outlets, that does not list it among its ingredients. I have watched, with concern, as Aspartame-free sugarless gums have dwindled over the years. I used to be able to buy any number of Orbit sugarless gums that did not include Aspartame. Now, every single Orbit flavor has the sweetener.
Wrigley owns Orbit and I submitted my query via their website. I asked why all of their flavors now include Aspartame. This was their response:
Thanks for asking about aspartame used in Wrigley products. We understand the importance of ensuring the ingredients in the food you eat are safe, and can assure you that food safety is one of Wrigley’s top priorities.
Wrigley uses the high intensity sweetener, aspartame, in a number of our products – both as the primary sweetener in some of our sugar free brands and as a flavor enhancer in some of our sugar sweetened brands. As an ingredient, aspartame is beneficial because it provides an especially long lasting flavor. Because of its intense sweetening power (aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar), it is used in very low amounts in foods and beverages, and only a miniscule amount is needed to enhance the flavor of chewing gum. For example, it would take approximately 40 sticks of Doublemint® to equal the amount of aspartame in one can of diet soda.
Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener made of two amino acids – phenylalanine and aspartic acid – that occur naturally in protein-containing foods such as meat, grains and dairy products. The two amino acids are linked together by a methyl ester group that is also found naturally in fruits and vegetables.
Aspartame is quickly and completely metabolized in the body, just like any other protein. Upon digestion, aspartame breaks down into three components – aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol – that are then used by the body in the same way as those found in foods that are eaten every day. In fact, these components are found in much greater amounts in many common foods. For example, a glass of tomato juice provides 6 times as much methanol as an equal amount of beverage sweetened with aspartame.
Since 1967, aspartame’s safety has been documented in more than 200 objective scientific studies. These extensive studies – often involving amounts of aspartame many times higher than individuals could possibly consume in their everyday diet – have been reviewed by the United States Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control, the American Medical Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Dietetic Association, Canada’s Health Protection Branch, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Foods, and by the experts of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization. In fact, over the past two years, health authorities in the European Union, United Kingdom, France, and Canada have conducted detailed reviews of aspartame and re-confirmed its safety.
All of these groups, as well as the regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries, have found aspartame to be safe for use as a sweetener in food and beverages. Its safety has been confirmed overwhelmingly by all scientific evidence accumulated over the course of the past 37 years of testing. Of course, each and every ingredient used in Wrigley products is in full compliance with local food and health regulations.
It should be noted that a very small percentage of the population – 1 in 15,000 or approximately 0.007% – has a rare inherited disease known as Phenylketonuria (PKU) that prevents their bodies from properly handling phenylalanine. People with PKU are placed on a special diet with a severe restriction of phenylalanine from birth to adolescence or after so that they get just enough for proper growth and not too much as to cause adverse effects. Since individuals with PKU must consider aspartame as an additional source of phenylalanine, aspartame-containing foods must carry a statement on the label “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine” in the U.S.
To find out more about aspartame visit www.aboutaspartame.com and www.caloriecontrol.org. These websites also include sections addressing misinformation and unfounded allegations about aspartame safety that periodically surface in the media and on the Internet.
We hope this information has been helpful. For additional questions or more information about Wrigley, please visit www.wrigley.com or contact us at any time at 1-800-WRIGLEY (9744539) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.
Consumer Care Representative
Still a bit skeptical, a golden opportunity arrived: My local grocery store was having a “buy two get one free” sale on this gum! Not only that, but the same store also had a Trident cinnamon gum without Aspartame. So I bought a couple of Orbit cinnamon gum (with Aspartame) and a couple of Trident cinnamon gum (that uses Xylitol instead). I would conduct my own unscientific test.
Which would have the best flavor and which would last the longest?
Today I have the results. The Trident/Xylitol gum’s flavor lasted only about five or six minutes. Toward the end of that period, there was a slightly bitter aftertaste. However, it started with a great burst of flavor that was superior to that of Orbit.
The Orbit/Aspartame gum’s flavor lasted around 13 minutes. It was much less intense at the beginning and more uniform throughout that period. There was no bitter aftertaste. When the flavor ran out, there was no taste at all.
In conclusion, if you’re averse to ingesting Aspartame, only plan on chewing your gum for five minutes or relish the initial burst of flavor, go with Trident. If long-lasting flavor, or no aftertaste, is important to you, and you don’t mind ingesting Apartame, go with Orbit.
Now you know which one is right to carry.