Growing up on the low-protein PKU diet, I was well aware to stay clear of chewing gum that contained aspartame (also marketed under brand names AminoSweet ®, Equal®, NutraSweet® and NatraTaste®). I had a ‘safe list,’ if you will, of all the brands I could choose from, but after searching through all my familiar fav’s on a recent visit to the grocery store, it appears that nowadays you cannot find a single pack of gum that doesn’t contain aspartame.
Discovered in 1965 and later approved as a food additive by the FDA in 1981, aspartame is used in chewing gum to provide a long-lasting sweet sensation since other ingredients such as sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup dissolve soon after chewing begins. Chemically, aspartame is comprised of a small amount of methanol and the two amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine – the last of which we know is very harmful to PKU patients.
According to www.aspartame.org, aspartame is currently found in more than 6,000 products worldwide including soft drinks, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. That’s a lot of products for PKU patients to be wary of!
Thankfully, with the growing popularity of all-natural products, there’s a new selection of chewing gums hitting the market featuring xylitol, an all-natural sugar alcohol. Also, since xylitol is an anti-microbial, it helps prevent tooth decay and provide a quick breath-freshener, especially after just chugging a serving of PKU formula.
Here’s a look at some of the aspartame-free gum currently on the market. Since they’re still rather new, finding these in common grocery and drug stores is difficult, but I’ve been able to buy some online, specifically through Amazon. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to find these products at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Jungle Jim’s or Earth Fare.
- Pür Gum
- XyloBurst Xylitol Gum
- Epic Xylitol Gum
- Peppersmith Chewing Gum
- Sugar-Free Glee Gum
If you’ve tried any of these aspartame-free gum products – or have others to add to the list – just let me know in the comments section below.