Friday, February 11, 2011

7 Year Chew?

We have all been there at some point in our youth, sitting in math class chewing a piece of gum a friend passes to you in the hallway, and all of a sudden Mr. Smith demands you to open your mouth. In fear of being disciplined you make a rash decision to swallow that piece of Bubble Yum. Thankfully you are saved from spending the afternoon in detention, but will that sudden action leave you with a wad of gum in your stomach for the next seven years?
Gastroenterologist David Milov answers this question to Scientific America with complete certainty, no. Milov insists that if gum lasted in our bodies for seven years then he would be able to find evidence on the digestive tract, yet has only found gum up to a week old. Rodger Liddel adds that nothing smaller then then a quarter in diameter will be in the intestines or stomach for long. Even some larger coins or objects can occasionally be passed without issue. Milov states, "It probably passes through slower than most foodstuffs but eventually the normal housekeepin waves in the digestive tract will of pushed it through, and it will come out pretty unmolested(or whole)."
Discovery Health's Josh Clark elaborates on the digestive process acting on the gum. In the intestine food is broken down to it components, and for gum those components generally are: flavorings, sweetners, softeners, and the gum base. Our bodies easily break down the first three, and what is left, gum base, leaves the body along with the rest of our bodies waste products(products that are useless to us).
So if it is so clear that chewing gum is no match to our bodies digestive system, why does this myth persist? It could be because mothers who fear their children choking on the non-food gum love this myth. It's used just as Santa Claus is used to make sure kids act "nice" instead of "naughty," idle threats that keep their children pleasant and out of danger. Another reason this myth is still widely believed could be because we witness gum standing the test of time in everyday life. How often have you been walking along the sidewalk and noticed a circular black gunk stuck on the cement? That black gunk is gum that was spit out by a careless pedestrian and stepped on by others while collecting dirt and other elements. It seems like that gum has been there forever, so it kind of makes since that it would stick around in our stomachs as well.

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