As its name suggests, caffeinated gum is chewing gum to which caffeine has been added in order to create a mild stimulant effect in the consumer. Advocates of caffeinated gum contend that it takes effect more quickly than other common sources of caffeine, and that it has fewer negative side effects than most alternative caffeine sources. Others argue that many caffeinated gum products contain unhealthy or artificial ingredients, and that, as with any caffeine source, overuse of the gum can lead to unwanted side effects.
Caffeinated gum has been available in countries such as the United States and Japan since the late 20th century. In the US, the product was brought to the public’s attention in part through research conducted by the military in the early 2000s. The military’s studies concluded that gum which contained caffeine could provide a more effective source of energy for sleep-deprived troops than such products as coffee or energy drinks.
A typical piece of caffeinated gum contains between 40 and 100 milligrams of caffeine. By comparison, a small cup of coffee contains around 75 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. The major difference between the gum and caffeinated beverages, however, is their absorption route. Caffeine found in beverages is generally absorbed through the intestines and the stomach, a process which can take up to an hour. Conversely, caffeine found in gum is absorbed through the mouth tissue, and thus begins to enter the bloodstream and boost the energy in as little as five minutes.
According to caffeinated gum promoters, along with a quick absorption rate, the product may also cause fewer negative side effects than other common caffeine sources. For instance, it generally does not stain the teeth as coffee can. As it is not a liquid, it does not create an increased need to urinate. Further, it contains fewer calories than some caffeine sources.
Some detractors hold that many caffeinated gum products contain unhealthy artificial ingredients as well as sugar, which can lead to tooth decay. In addition, these detractors argue that, as with any caffeinated product, excessive consumption of the gum can lead to caffeine overdose, in turn causing such unpleasant symptoms as headache, heart palpitations, agitation, sleeplessness and nausea. The possibility of overdose is of particular concern to some parents and caregivers because chewing gum has a wide appeal for children, many of whom may not yet understand the risks of using caffeine.