My name is camille.
I ask a lot of questions.
Ahhhhh gum. After all these years of health and experiment, I consider this minty stick of goodness my only real last vice. Not ice cream, not candy, not even dark chocolate. This artificially sweet derivative of a traditional chew (beeswax or tree sap) is my post-meal grab. Not surprising, since mint- combined with the chewing action of gum-is known to stimulate enzymes to aid in digestion.
BUT the processed gum we chew today has so many chemicals in it...and I have been a loyal gum-aholic for so many years...that it has started to make me nervous. I want to know if my daily consumption of gum is increasing my risk of cancer. I have ruminated over this question for some time now, but have been such an addict, I never researched an answer.
I didn't really want to know.
But, my friends, I figure it's enough time wasted. For better or worse, it's time to figure this out.
To tackle this problem, I decided to investigate the main ingredients of most sugar free gums (mainly, ASPARTAME, SORBITOL, AND XYLITOL), and then look at sugarless gum as a whole. Because of its main presence in our food society (I use it to sweeten my hot drinks), and general controversial-ness, I chose to start with aspartame.
According to the FDA, here are the facts:
ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) = 3,750 mg for an average, 165 lb person
SO this person would have to drink:
19 diet sodas
107 sugar-substitute packets
to go over the daily limit.
I think it's safe to say none of us consume that much, right? The American Cancer Society seems to think so too. In fact, according to the ACS (remember, our STANDARD for cancer research. So, I would say, VERY CREDIBLE), "no health problems have been consistently linked to aspartame use." The American Diabetes Association supports aspartame use as well, and has been promoting this sugar substitute to diabetics for years.
Alright, moving on.
Apparently there isn't much more to say about sorbitol than was already said about aspartame. It is another sugar substitue, but the same opinions are held by the ACS as with aspartame: "all of these sweeteners appear to be safe when used in moderation".
A study in 2011 looked at the "controversial" as well as the "safe" perspectives on artificial sweeteners and explained it all nicely here. While they did not conclusively support either side, they did point out that in the negative reports on artificial sweeteners, "most of the studies have limitations such as effects shown only in animals not in human, small sample size, high doses, statistically non-significant or borderline significant, etc.". In other words, the methods of these studies were questionable for our purposes. Very telling...
What is it? Another sugar substitute. How is it different? It's actually good for your teeth! Unlike ASPARTAME and SORBITOL, Xylitol is a naturally occurring compound. It is produced in your body, as well as being present in small amounts in fruit and other foods! I had no idea! Naturally suhweeeet.
Apart from looking at the main ingredients in gum, I also promised to see what research has to say about chewing gum as a whole. Well, it turns out, the research is either pretty safe OR inconclusive on that end.
All medical opinions I found tended to agree with this particular radiation oncologist: "No clinical studies or reviews have shown that chewing sugar free gum has a causal effect on cancer" There you have it, folks.
While researching these answers, I couldn't help but browse through the "holistic" sites that condemn gum for all its "chemicals". Although being on these sites and hearing these holistic pundits sparks a certain fervor to ban all things "un-natural", I have to stop and remember the research I've already found. The TRUTH is that whether in portion or observed effects, the "damaging" science just isn't there.
To wrap up this topic, I found a woman after my own heart. Alice over at GoAskAlice confirmed every suspicion I've had about the benefits of chewing gum. In brief, she reminded us that humans have a tendency to want to chew, whether on "leaves, grains, waxes, or various types of sweet grasses". She also praised sugarless gum for its ability to curb cravings and prevent consumption of excess calories.
In conclusion, I'm happy to say I've let go of my anxiety surrounding gum. While my research had its limitations because I didn't extensively process ALL ingredients in chewing gum, I did complete my purposes of finding the link between gum and cancer risk. I'm not going to let sugar substitutes off the hook for other reasons (weight gain, effects on metabolism), but for now I say enjoy your chew and GO GUM!
My last post got me thinking.
As I learned about radiation emission, I learned that we are exposed through more than just our microwaves. Emissions of HIGH RADIO WAVE FREQUENCY (see last post) is used in WIFI, cellphone, and TV communication.
UM what?! Does that mean that we are potentially exposed to these things ALL THE TIME?!
And to top it off, my friend happened to recently send me a study linking breast cancer in women who frequently keep their phones in their bra...
...since I may or may not be guilty of this, I decided to do some research.
There is a national standard for safety exposure levels related to phones. This tells us that we can be exposed to 1.6 watts/kilogram. However, this standard has recently been criticized as being outdated. This is reasonable since it was established nearly 20 years ago. Don't think our phone use has changed a lot since then? Picture cellphones in the 1990's. Think about them now. Yeahhhh.
The most noticeable change is in how we carry our phones. They used to be bulkier and so were assumed to be carried externally, such as a purse..or in those super cute clip-on side pouches. Remember those? Of course you do.
Either way, they were never slim enough to make such close contact as our pockets or bras. But fast forward a couple years and innovations later, and we have the Androids and iPhones we do today.
Yay for convenience! Right?
Let's talk about the article on breast cancer. Four cases were reported of four different women, ages 21 to 39, who were diagnosed with breast cancer but were not genetically disposed (in other words, likely) to get this type of cancer. All their tumors shared similar characteristics (I guess cancer has different characteristics?), and as reported, were literally shaped as the phones these women repeatedly kept in their bras.
I should note that their phone rested there for an average of 10 hours a day. While that may sound like a lot, think about how long you keep your phone near. I don't know about you, but my phone is almost always in contact with me--whether in my hand, pocket, or bra. ALSO can I note that one of the women was only TWENTY ONE YEARS OLD PEOPLE?!
Whether or not you read this and think you don't keep your phone so close for so long, there is still no denying the fact that there is reasonable evidence to believe that, in using our phones, we are at a higher risk for developing cancer.
Out of all this, I wanted to know: Am I being exposed all the time? Or just when my phone is active, like in making a call?
Umm unfortunately, YES, the phone is always active. Even while not in use. So even while it's resting in just, say, your pocket. It is still emitting radiation.
My final question then was: ugh, well what can I do now? How far should my phone be?
And I found the simple guideline that "distance is your friend". Devices such as bluetooth, headsets, and speakerphone allow this more easily. Also, to reduce your exposure, turn off your WIFI before you go to bed!
Though these sources say the data does not conclusively prove a connection between cellphone use and cancer, they all credit it to there not being enough research. They seem to hint that there is a likely connection, but that we just haven't had enough time or studies done to prove that yet. For these reasons, I personally am going to resist keeping my phone in the most convenient places. Unfortunate, but necessary.
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crim/2013/354682/ (accessed Sept. 23,2014).
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/cellular-phones (accessed Sept. 23, 2014).
http://www.cnet.com/news/u-s-report-fccs-cell-phone-radiation-guidelines-outdated/ (accessed Sept. 23, 2014).
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cellphones (accessed Sept. 23, 2014). http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/06/16/emf-safety-tips.aspx (accessed Sept. 28, 2014).
http://healthychild.org/cell-phones-radiation-your-childs-health/ (accessed Sept. 28, 2014).