The Chemistry of Chewing Gum

Everything is a chemical.

That includes chewing gum.

So, what is it?

Well, what do you think it might be? As you’re happily chewing on it, what does it feel like? Well, when you are chewing on it, it kind of sort of feels rubbery.  Not that I’ve ever eaten rubber, mind you, but it does kind of feel rubbery.  Well, as it turns out that’s no coincidence, because that’s exactly what it is: rubber.

Here is the formula:

As to why it’s rubbery, or why rubber is rubbery, that’s kind of a rubbery question. It’s quite a complex explanation, but essentially the long chains of the molecule are a lot like coiled rope with weak interactions with their neighbours.  When it is stretched the straightening effect reduces the entropy of the system while at the same time increasing the enthalpy, and thus the stored energy is actually thermal energy and…… see, I told you it was complex!

Anyhow, so it is rubber. That means, of course, that it is essentially nonbiodegradable.  Can you swallow it?  Yes – it would just go straight through you.  There been cases where people have eaten too much chewing gum, and it’s actually stuck to stuff in their stomach, and got stuck in their bowel later on.  Nasty.

there has been some suggestion that is potentially carcinogenic, due to the vinyl acetate that some formulations use.  But as far as I can see, the jury is still out on that.

and on top of the fact that is made from rubber, it’s sickly sweet with either sugar (rots your teeth and expand your waistline), or various types of artificial sweeteners.

Anyway, now I know why I never use the stuff.



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