Multivitamin chewing gum? Penn State research backs format's potential for vitamin delivery

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / belchonock
iStock / belchonock

Related tags: Chewing gum, Bioavailability

Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University found that plasma concentrations of some vitamins increased after chewing gum fortified with these nutrients.

The study, funded by Kentucky-based candy manufacturer Vitaball Inc., looked at plasma vitamin concentrations in 15 healthy human participants.

“We examined the release of vitamins from the [chewing gum] into the saliva using a single-blind randomized design, and then determined the acute impact of chewing vitamin-supplemented gums on plasma vitamin concentrations,” ​they wrote in the study, published online​ ahead of print for the November issue of the Journal of Functional Foods.

They found that, after chewing gum containing retinol (vitamin A1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), the concentration of these vitamins in the blood increased.

Other vitamins they looked at (thiamine, riboflavin, and cholecalciferol) did not increase in plasma concentration levels after chewing gum containing them, though they were released into the saliva. "This lack of effect on plasma concentrations could be due to the relatively low levels of thiamine and riboflavin in the gum and the extensive metabolism of cholecalciferol after consumption,"​ they explained.

For water-soluble vitamins like B6 and C used in the study, the vitamins were almost completely extracted from the gum during chewing. For fat-soluble vitamins A and E, the vitamins were not completely released from the gum.

Manufacturers have explored chewing gum as a delivery format for vitamins—Vitaball Inc. has SmartGum​, and British company Get More Vitamins released multivitamin chewing gums​ earlier this year.

But according to Dr. Joshua Lambert, co-author of the study and professor at Penn State’s Department of Food Science, this study marked the first time researchers closely scrutinized vitamin delivery from chewing gum.

"I was slightly surprised that no one had done a study like this before given the number of supplement-containing gum products on the market," ​Lambert said. "But there is no requirement that nutritional gums be tested for efficacy ​[pre-market], since they fall into the category of dietary supplements."

Study details

Researchers used two off-the-shelf products provided by the study sponsor, Sport (which was released in 2011​) and Immunity. The sponsor also provided the placebo, which was a chewing gum with no fortified vitamins.

Fifteen participants aged 22 to 52 years, with six men and nine women, went through two study phases. In the first, researchers looked at the release of constituent vitamins from the gum matrix into the saliva. In the second, researchers examined the acute impact on blood plasma levels of vitamins after chewing vitamin-fortified gum over the course of the day.

The positive results only apply to an acute setting, Dr. Lambert said. “For a day we have shown that chewing supplemented gum bumps up vitamin levels in blood plasma, but we haven't shown that this will elevate plasma levels for vitamins long-term. Ideally, that would be the next study,” he said.

“Enroll people who have some level of deficiency for some of the vitamins in supplemented gum and have them chew it regularly for a month to see if that raises levels of the vitamins in their blood."

Source: Journal of Functional Foods
Published online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2018.09.026
"Vitamin-supplemented chewing gum can increase salivary and plasma levels of a panel of vitamins in healthy human participants"
Authors: Weslie Y. Khoo, et al.

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