Women's feet on a bathroom scale

Losing weight

Will I soon be able to chew gum to get slim?

It’s claimed that a chewing gum containing dietary fibres can help you lose weight. Inventor Maria Luisa Balmer explains how it works and what Migros has to do with it.

From
Barbara Scherer
Date
Format
Interview

Ms Balmer, can I already buy slimming “FibreGum” at Migros?

I’m afraid not – the chewing gum hasn’t yet reached ­Migros’ shelves. We’re currently trialling it in ­a study involving overweight children in ­association with Bern Children’s Hospital; however, the aim is to start selling the chewing gum in the coming years, including at Migros.

Once it’s available, will I be able to chew myself slim?

FibreGum isn’t a miracle cure that’ll make you lose 10 to 20 kilograms: it’s no substitute for a balanced­ diet and adequate physical exercise. Rather, the chewing gum supplements conventional weight-loss methods. Our hope is that it will permanently change the gut flora.

How does that work?

Thanks to soluble dietary fibres in the chewing gum – natural fibres like the ones found in vegetables and legumes, which serve as food for important­ gut bacteria. Morbidly obese people often have less of certain bacteria that feed on such dietary­ fibres. The increased consumption of these fibres causes these bacterial strands to grow again. And this is where FibreGum comes in.

And these bacteria make you slim?

Not the bacteria themselves, but the by-products created when they digest dietary fibres – including short-chain fatty acids, for example, which regulate the appetite. Simply put, if you have more of these fatty acids in your ­system, you feel full faster and eat less. But it’s not just about losing­ weight.

What, then?

It’s about the complications associated with being overweight, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Based on existing studies, we assume that the right gut bacteria also stimulate fat burning ­and the sugar metabolism in the­ body. This can prevent diabetes.

So I could actually just eat more vegetables...

Absolutely. However, FibreGum is in the mouth for longer and may also stimulate beneficial bacteria there. These bacteria produce important metabolites in the mouth that enter the bloodstream through the mucous membranes and are then carried directly to important organs. The chewing gum will probably help people cut down on snacking, too.

So does the chewing gum taste like vegetables?

(Laughs) No. FibreGum is indistinguishable from other chewing gums; it’s white and tastes of peppermint.

Do you make the chewing gum yourself? 

No, we developed the chewing gum in association with the Migros company Delica, which also produces it. 

Why is the chewing gum only being trialled among children?

To put it simply, we had to start somewhere with the study. And as many overweight adults report that they already had weight problems during childhood, it makes sense to start the fight against obesity together with children. What’s more, most children love chewing gum, which makes them the perfect study group.