Does Gum Really Take Seven Years to Digest?

Despite the pervasive schoolyard rumor, gum can be digested in a few days, says Jennifer Luth, the manager of marketing communications at Wrigley. “Chewing gum is composed of five basic ingredients, four of which [flavor, sweeteners, syrups, and softeners] dissolve in your mouth,” she says. “If you swallow the remaining gum base, it passes [through the body] like roughage.”

“Chewing gum that is manufactured under good manufacturing practices would be safe to consume,” adds Michael Herndon, press officer at the Food and Drug Administration. (What gum might fall into the category of questionable manufacturing? He doesn’t say.)

Even so, don’t go swallowing every piece of gum you chew. In a 1998 study published in Pediatrics (Volume 102 Number 2), researchers documented cases where children who routinely swallowed large quantities of gum developed digestive problems and blockages. The children in the study were swallowing multiple pieces a day (one swallowed five to seven pieces daily). However, the occasional piece of Bubble Yum shouldn’t cause a gastrointestinal incident.

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday. Got a Nagging Question of your own? Email us.