09 Feb

New study recommends chewing sugar-free gum to reduce premature birth risk

A new study suggests that chewing sugar-free during pregnancy can reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Researchers from the US carried out a trial involving pregnant women in Malawi. A group of expectant mothers were provided with sugar-free gum, which contained Xylitol, a sugar substitute.

The team found that women who chewed sugar-free gum for 20 minutes per day were less likely to give birth prematurely and have babies with low birth weight. In the group given the Xylitol gum, 12.6% of women had late premature births (between 34 and 37 weeks) compared to 16.5% of women in a control group. This amounts to a 25% reduction.

The trial also suggested that low birth weight was less common in the group provided with the sugar-free chewing gum (8.9%) than the control group (12.9%). Low birth weight is defined as lower than 5.5lbs.

The authors of the study stated that the findings underline the importance of oral health and hygiene and suggest that inexpensive, simple, accessible steps, such as chewing sugar-free gum daily, can improve maternal health and lower the risk of complications.

Previous studies have linked poor oral health to an increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Pregnant women are at greater risk of dental health issues as a result of hormonal changes, which occur in the body during pregnancy. Gum disease is common during pregnancy and many women who have previously enjoyed good oral health develop symptoms during the gestation period, including swelling and bleeding gums.

The research team was led by Professor Kjersti Aagaard from the Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine. The trial period spanned 10 years and involved more than 10,000 women.