Just think about it… if gum never lost its flavor, you’d only have to buy one piece — ever. You could chew and chew on it all day long.

At night, you could put it on your bedpost and commence chewing again first thing in the morning. OK, that might not sound all that appetizing after all.

But wouldn’t it be great if gum never lost its flavor? If you were a gum manufacturer, that might not be such a great thing, though.

Do gum manufacturers make gum that loses its flavor just to make sure you keep buying gum? Not at all! Gum loses its flavor naturally. It’s just science at work.

Chewing gum isn’t like chewing regular food, is it? For example, if you take a bite of a hot dog, you don’t keep chewing and chewing on it. You chew it up and swallow it. But you don’t chew gum the same way.

When you chew gum, it doesn’t break up into pieces that you swallow. Gum isn’t meant to be swallowed. In fact, our bodies can’t digest chewing gum.

Why is gum like this? The answer lies in its ingredients. The basic components of chewing gum are gum base, softeners, sweeteners and flavorings.

Gum base is the main ingredient in chewing gum. It’s what makes the gum chewy. Long, long ago, chewing gum was made from various tree saps.

One of the most popular was the latex sap called “chicle” from the sapodilla tree. Today, gum base is usually made from synthetic rubber or a mix of artificial and natural materials.

To prevent gum from becoming too hard or dry, gum makers add softeners. Most softeners are made from substances developed from glycerin or vegetable oil.

Chewing gum probably wouldn’t be very popular if it tasted like rubber. To make it a true treat, gum makers add sweeteners and flavorings as the final ingredients.

Sweeteners can be natural, like sugar or corn syrup, or artificial. The most common artificial sweeteners have interesting names, such as xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol and aspartame.

Flavorings can come from all sorts of sources, and gum makers usually keep their flavoring ingredients a secret. The most common flavors of chewing gum are peppermint, fruit, spearmint and menthol.

So why don’t these flavors last? When you chew gum, the saliva (spit) in your mouth begins to digest the sweeteners and flavorings in the gum. Unlike the gum base, the other ingredients can be broken down and digested.

As you swallow while you chew, the digested sweeteners and flavorings move through your digestive system to your stomach. Eventually, you digest all the sweeteners and flavorings, and all you’re left with is the gum base and softeners. That’s when you sense that your gum has lost its flavor.

If you’re wondering who invented chewing gum, no one knows for sure. The natural substances first used in chewing gum have been around (and chewed on) for hundreds — and maybe even thousands — of years.

Historians do know that inventor Thomas Adams of New York started a chewing gum factory in 1870. His first chewing gum product was called “Adams New York No. 1.”

The following year, Adams patented the first flavored gum. Adams added licorice flavoring to his gum, called it “Black Jack” and sold it in sticks. The rest, as they say, is history!

 

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    • That’s a really good guess, Rahul! The “Wonder what’s next?” clue might lead you to believe that tomorrow’s Wonder is all about Big Foot, but we’ll have to check back to see if there is anything else it could be about, as well! Thanks for always trying to figure out the next day’s Wonder…we appreciate your enthusiasm for learning! :-)

    • Hi, Vikkie! It sounds like Bigfoot is a popular choice to be the star of tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We hope you’re right…we’ve always WONDERed about him (or her!)! :-)

    • We haven’t forgotten about your idea for a Wonder about llamas, Rebecca! We appreciate all the suggestions for future Wonders that we receive from our many Wonder Friends…including YOU! It takes a good bit of time to go from “Wonder idea” to “Wonder of the Day®.” There is a lot of WONDERing that happens behind the scenes to make each Wonder the best it can be! :-)

  1. I agree with Rahul and Vikkie that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be is Bigfoot real?

    Gum loses its flavor as you chew it, taking away the flavored juices in the gum. And, if you blow bubbles, it fills with air and the air takes up some flavor.

    Paige ;)

    • We like it when our Wonder Friends add their own thinking (or WONDERing) to the Wonder of the Day®, Paige! That’s just what you’ve done be leaving us this AMAZING comment! Thanks so much! :-)

  2. Oh my gosh, thank you so much. You are so nice! I am honored to be a wonder friend! You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. Thanks for building my confidence a little!

  3. WOW! great wonder, it was so cool to see how many things can make one tiny piece of gum. I remember when I blew my first bubble. It got so big it splattered all over my face. I love chewing gum, but once you chew it for a while without the flavor it gets really boring. It was really cool to know that your saliva digests the flavor of the gum. The cool thing is I’m writing this while chewing a piece of gum. I don’t remember watching the Muppets when I was young, but that video was kind of cool. Great Wonder!

    • We’re so glad you liked this Wonder, Colin, and that you stopped by Wonderopolis over your holiday break! You “MC” kids are SUPER Wonder Friends, for sure! Thanks for sharing all the awesome things you learned about gum, and also your personal experiences! Your first bubble gum bubble must have been a BIG one! :-)

  4. I haven’t been on Wonderopolis since break and I’m really enjoying the wonders I have missed. I was skimming through the recent wonders and when this one came up, I was super excited. Gum is my favorite treat, and I learned a lot about it that I didn’t know before.

    • Hi, Allison! We’d like to thank you for visiting Wonderopolis on your holiday break! That is AWESOME! It makes us super happy to know that you are exploring the Wonders you’ve missed! :-)

  5. I am so pleased to read Colin’s comment and I am thrilled you made so many personal connections. I found your comment because my son was searching for wonders tonight. I wonder what.is the most popular gum flavor in our MC class? We might have to find out when we get back next week.

    • We think that’s a WONDERful idea, Mrs. Caplin! We’d really like to know what flavors of gum are the top favorites of your awesome “MC” kids! Also, please tell your son that his friends in Wonderopolis think he’s AWESOME for exploring some new Wonders of the Day! :-)

  6. That was my favorite wonder yet!!!! I just got so interested in the wonder and it felt like it was 20 words!!!! Was “Black Jack” really the color black? It is so cool that when I chew gum my body digests everything in the gum except gum base and softener. I did the “Who Invented Chewing Gum” wonder, so I knew what chicle was and who the first people to chewed gum were. I’ll be sure to comment soon. :)

    • WOW, Alex! You sure learned a lot about gum by exploring Wonderopolis! We like to hear about our Wonder Friends using the links found in each Wonder of the Day® to learn even MORE! We’re proud of you for that! :-)

  7. Good evening!!! Hi!!! I think that those names of the common artificial softeners are interesting, too. At least I think that is what they are called. I like this wonder of the day. It was very interesting. I like wonderopolis. It gives you very good answers to certain wonders that you are thinking of. Lots of people should be reading about the wonder of the day if they are wondering about anything. They could be wondering about fingerprints, bubble gum…lots of things. They will wonder and wonder all of the time.

    • Thanks for this SUPER comment today, Leslie! You are absolutely right…Wonderopolis is a place for people to WONDER and to learn about things they WONDER about! We think you are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We have seen those dessert-flavored gums in the stores, too, Amber! We like the key lime pie and strawberry shortcake ones! Gum manufacturers put flavorings into the gum base to boost the flavor. They can also combine different flavorings to make almost any sweet, savory or sour flavor they can dream up! Can you imagine chewing on mashed potato and gravy gum? Or how about pumpkin pie gum? The possibilities are endless! :-)

  8. I did want to know why my gum lost its flavor all of the time, but now I know why because I read this wonder of the day. Wonderopolis is so awesome! :)

    • Well, we think YOU are pretty awesome yourself, Hannah! We really like reading your comments and hope you learn LOTS of new things every time you visit Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We think YOU are super cool for visiting this Wonder about gum and leaving us a comment to let us know you stopped by, Hanna! Thanks for that! :-)

    • Hi to you, too, Clark Team 8! We’re glad you loved learning new things about gum by exploring this Wonder! :-)

    • We thought the video for this Wonder was AWESOME, Kyra! That’s a fun song to sing, don’t you think? The Muppets just make it EXTRA fun! :-)

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you learned something new by exploring this Wonder of the Day®, Kat! Thanks for letting us know! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us this great comment to let us know you learned something new in Wonderopolis today, Selina! :-)

  9. I love gum, the only thing I don’t like about it is the flavor is always going out, so I have to get 5 more pieces. That’s what I hate about gum, but some gum’s flavor stays for a long time.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about gum, CeCe! We think it would be SUPER if someone invented gum that NEVER lost its flavor! That would be NEAT! :-)

  10. Hello wonderopolis, I learned a lot about gum from the article. I always thought that the people that made the gum made it so it would lose its flavor so people would keep buying it. If there was gum that didn’t lose its flavor everyone would just buy one piece of gum and never buy another. I didn’t know what synthetic and glycerin were until I read the article. The videos that were shown were very interesting and full of things I didn’t know like how gum was made and the ingredients in the gum were very interesting. How long has gum been being made for?

    • Thanks for sharing how you feel about this Wonder of the Day®, Katlyne! We appreciate your comment and your opinion! :-)

  11. Hello! I’ve always wondered why gum loses its flavor, now I know why. A long time ago chewing gum was made from various tree saps, which I thought was cool. The 1st flavor of chewing gum was licorice. Two words I didn’t know until now are glycerin and synthetic. When did chewing gum become popular?

    • What a WONDERFul comment you left for us today, Team Unger 20! It was great to read about the cool facts and vocab words you learned! Although we think gum has probably been popular for as long as it’s been around (it’s super fun to chew), the demand for chewing gum production began to rise after World War II. We think that it when the REAL popularity of gum began! :-)

    • Hi, Bpe Devin. B! Thanks so much for leaving us this SUPER comment…we’re glad you learned something new and interesting in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Hi there Nakiyah, Wonderopolis is part of the National Center for Family Literacy. We are happy to be cited as a reference for your science project. We’d love to hear about it, and if you have any pictures, you can send them to hello@wonderopolis.org! :)

  12. When somebody puts gum on the concrete, why does it turn black? Thanks! Clayton and Miss Brown The Academy Grade 5

    • WOW, what a great Wonder from Miss Brown and Clayton! We know that lots of things touch concrete… people’s shoes, cars, rain and other types of weather. We bet that the concrete and the other elements turn gum to a dark color! :)

  13. It was interesting to me that one of the basic ingredients of gum was sap. It was also fascinating that sap prevents gum from being to hard.But, I wonder, what is cinnamon gum made of?

    • Gum manufacturers can use flavors in gum to make it unique, Jensen! From cinnamon to mint to bubble gum flavoring, gum can taste differently based on its ingredients! We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

  14. Just the other day I was chewing my gum and asked the same question and now I know why it happens. It happens because we digest the sweeteners or flavoring in the gum.

  15. Hi wonderopolis! I learned a lot about chewing gum just now. I really liked how you told us the ingredents and then told us what they are used for. I do still have one lingering question, though, that you can’t answer. Who invented chewing gum?

    • Keep up the great WONDERing, Peter! Perhaps you can do some more research about the origins of chewing gum! Keep us posted if you find out who it is! :)

  16. Hello Wondoropolis. I can’t believe how much information there is about gum. I liked how you told us the ingreadients and how it was made a long time ago from tree sap. I wonder if the the gum factory that Thomas Adams made in 1870 is still there? I have two wondors how was gum originated? And what is the meaning of gum?

    • Great questions, Justin! We’re thrilled that you are WONDERing about gum– and thinking of other Wonders that connect, too! We bet you can do some WONDERing of your own about gum– we’d love to find out more about gum! :)

    • Great question, Anand! We’re so glad you have shared your very own Wonder with us today! We have to do some research to find the answer to that question! :)

    • What a great question, Cameron! We hope you’ll do some more WONDERing of your own to find out what the first flavor was– we’d love to hear what you find! :)

    • We couldn’t be happier to hear that you learned something new about gum, Will! We don’t like flavorless gum, either, but we are glad you learned all about the science behind it! Thanks for being a Wonder fan! YOU ROCK! :)

  17. Hello Wonderopolis if I put my gum on my bed I would not eat ever again. Did they ever make gum that never lost their taste because my mom would love that.

    • We don’t blame you, Sophia, we don’t think that gum would taste very good after it’s been on your bed! What a sticky situation! We think Willy Wonka, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, tried to make a never-ending flavored gum… we Wonder if you have read that book by Roald Dahl? Perhaps you can become an inventor when you grow up, and you create a never-ending gum for your mom! :)

  18. I think the video has a catchy tune. I sing it everyday. Im from Mrs. Hess’ class, too. I’d love for you to send us some more hilarious videos. I’m still WONDERing. :)

    • Well thanks for telling us about your favorite part of our sticky Wonder, Shalize! We are glad you and your Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ class are smiling as you Wonder! We hope to see you soon so we can learn something new together again! :)

    • We’re so happy to hear that you’ve learned something new with us, Adiamoore! Gum can harden when you stop chewing… and it’s not fun when it sticks to something else (like your hair or clothes)! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why does gum lose its flavor?
  • What ingredients are in chewing gum?
  • What was the first flavor of chewing gum?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to taste-test some chewing gum? That’s right! There’s no better way to put what you’ve learned about chewing gum into action than doing it. So get chewing!

If you need some gum, go with a friend or a family member to the store. If you can, try out several different types of gum.

Which flavors do you like best? Which kinds of gum have flavors that last the longest? If you could invent a new flavor of chewing gum, what would it be?

Use a stopwatch or a timer to measure how long the flavor of each type of gum lasts. Record your findings in a notebook.

When you’re finished, email us the results, or post them on Facebook or Twitter. We can’t wait to read about the results of your firsthand research!

 

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Spice World lesson, children create a map showing the origins of the spices and herbs that help flavor their favorite dishes.

 

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Tags

base  flavor  gum  saliva 

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