Recently the ban was lifted somewhat,
and you can now buy prescription gum in Singapore for "therapeutic"
purposes only -- say you're trying to kick a cigarette habit. You'll
have to submit your name and an identity card, though, and
pharmacists who deal chewing gum illegally can face two years in
But what if scientists could develop a
chewing gum that had all of gum's good qualities and none of its bad
ones? University of Illinois researcher Soo-Yeun Lee thinks a corn
byproduct called zein has definite potential as a biodegradable,
non-sticky chewing gum base.
"If we could develop a gum like that
instead of the synthetic-based gums that are on the market now, it
would not only be good for the environment, it would be a
significant use for a corn byproduct. Zein-based gum would use a lot
of corn," Lee said.
"And, no, it doesn't taste like corn,"
she added. "The cinnamon flavoring we add makes it taste very much
like the gum we're used to."
In sensory panels in Lee's lab, nine
panelists have been chewing six types of gum -- four with a corn
zein base -- once a day for five weeks and evaluating them for
taste, texture, aroma and mouth feel.
As any experienced gum chewer knows,
the flavor of chewing gum changes over time. That's because the rate
at which flavor compounds are released varies during the chewing
[to top of second column in
Every 0.5 seconds, the computerized
system in Lee's lab records the intensity of flavor that
participants are experiencing. With these readings, Lee can tell
exactly when maximum flavor intensity is reached, how long it takes
to reach maximum intensity and the duration of intensity. At a
certain point, panelists are cued to spit the gum out; then they
evaluate its aftertaste.
After each sample has been thoroughly
evaluated, panelists first rinse their mouths by eating a piece of
matzo cracker, swallowing warm water and finally by drinking water
at room temperature. Then it's time for the next piece of gum.
Of the six gums tested, Lee believes
she's found a couple of winners -- two gums with corn zein bases,
each one requiring certain modifications but definitely gums with
high potential to taste good, not stick to things after they've been
chewed and degrade naturally in the environment.
"We still have a lot of work to do
before we come up with a final 'recipe' for corn zein chewing gum
that will hit it off with consumers, but we know what we have to
work on now and we've shown that the idea is viable," Lee said.
McGowan and Graciela Padua assisted Lee with the study, which has
been submitted to the Journal of Food Science for publication.
[University of Illinois news release]