Sugar-free chewing gum has many benefits over sugar-containing varieties, including lower risk of cavities and reduced calorie content. Chewing large amounts of sugar-free gum can lead to significant weight loss by causing frequent bowel movements. While this effect may be desirable for some, it can also be dangerous in certain instances. Understanding the effects of sugar-free gum on weight loss allows you to make informed decisions about how you use it.
Sugar-free gum may contain any number of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or acesulfame potassium. Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in prunes and apples, is a common ingredient in sugar-free gum. Xylitol is similar to sorbitol and may also be added to sugar-free gum as a sweetener.
Both sorbitol and xylitol have a laxative effect if ingested in large doses. According to Science Daily, sugar-free gum containing sorbitol can cause weight loss of up to 20 percent of a person's body weight when chewed in large amounts. Xylitol and sorbitol act as non-stimulant laxatives, producing bowel movements by drawing water into the large intestine. Like other laxatives, sugar-free gum can be abused for its ability to cause weight loss.
In addition to weight loss, sugar-free gum can cause other unpleasant side effects. Drug Information Online lists gas, stomach cramps, nausea and anal irritation as common side effects of sorbitol. Sensitivity to the effects of sugar alcohols varies depending on a person's body size and other factors. The Canadian Diabetes Association states that most healthy adults can consume up to 10 grams of sugar alcohols per day without significant side effects. Combining sugar-free gum with medications that block fat or sugar absorption can result in more severe abdominal cramping. Frequent bowel movements produced by chewing large amounts of sugar-free gum may also be inconvenient or unpleasant for some people.
Avoiding or limiting your use of sugar-free gum can help prevent weight loss and other unwanted side effects. Talk to your doctor before chewing sugar-free gum if you take sugar- or fat-blocking drugs like orlistat or acarbose. Checking the ingredient label can help you identify whether a particular brand contains sweeteners like xylitol or sorbitol. Stop using sugar-free gum and see your doctor if you experience severe abdominal cramping, unintentional weight loss or other unwanted side effects.