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ADA Lends Seal of Approval to Aspartame-Sweetened Gum

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: the ADA, chewing gum, health news

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(NewsTarget) The American Dental Association (ADA) has given its seal of acceptance to certain sugar-free gums sold by Wrigley and made with aspartame. It is the first time that the association has awarded the seal to a gum product since it began certifying products in 1930.

The ADA conducted an independent review of studies conducted by Wrigley on its Orbit, Extra and Eclipse gums, and concluded that chewing the sugar-free products three times a day for 20 minutes after meals does indeed help prevent cavities, strengthen teeth and reduce negative impacts from plaque acid. The studies found that gum chewing after meals increases saliva production, which has been shown to both neutralize and clear out plaque acid. In addition, saliva contains minerals that strengthen tooth enamel and help teeth resist cavity formation.

Because the studies were conducted by Wrigley and looked only at Wrigley products, those are the only products for which the ADA has approved the cavity and plaque-fighting claims. But the company-specific nature of the ruling has drawn some criticism.

Peter Lurie, deputy director of the Health Research Group at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, founded by Ralph Nader, said that because the ADA only reviews the studies that are submitted to it along with the appropriate fees, the approval system is biased in favor of large companies.

In addition to the cost of the studies, Wrigley paid a $12,000 submission fee for each product to be evaluated, for a total of $36,000. According to the ADA, the company also spends between $35,000 and $45,000 each year in advertising and sponsorships in association conferences, publications and programs -- not counting the $25,000 it pays to sponsor a health screening program.

Lurie questioned whether a biased approval process can really instill consumer confidence.

"As long as the testing process and the criteria for receipt of a seal [are] unclear, the exact meaning of the ADA's seal will remain obscure," Lurie said.

The gums contain aspartame, an artificial chemical sweetener that many natural health advocates believe to be linked to seizures, brain tumors, degenerative eye disease and various nervous system disorders. "It's not surprising that the ADA would allow its seal to be present on gum products containing a dangerous chemical additive," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams. "This is the same organization that continues to promote the use of highly toxic mercury in silver fillings implanted in the mouths of children. The ADA has zero credibility when it comes to protecting consumers from toxic substances," Adams said.

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