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Botanical-infused chewing gum blocks the tongue’s sugar receptors.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Good news for those of us who all-too-often give in to our sweet tooth. An Israeli start-up, Sweet Victory Ltd., has created a line of botanical-infused chewing gums designed to stop the sugar cravings.

The gum takes effect within two minutes by blocking the tongue’s sugar receptors and lasts up to two hours.

During that time, the sweet foods and drinks which normally excite the taste buds are instead experienced as bland or even sour, allowing what could be an unhealthy binge to pass.

Too much sugar is associated with health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, and of course, cavities. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar to no more than six teaspoons per day, and men limit added sugar to no more than nine teaspoons per day.

“Most of us battle with sweet cravings on a daily basis,” notes Gitit Lahav, a psychologist who spent almost a decade researching the link between nutrition and psychology. Lahav co-founded Sweet Victory with Shimrit Lev, a professional nutritional instructor. The start-up is based in Ramat Yishai, between Haifa and Migdal HaEmek.

“Even as awareness of the impact of overindulgent sugar consumption on personal wellbeing grows, kicking the sugar ‘habit’ is a real struggle for most of us. This is what spurred us to seek a solution that would help consumers take better control over their nutritional choices,” Lahav said.

With their background in botanicals, Lahav and Lev turned to the ancient Indian botanical gymnema, (Gymnema sylvestre) known among Indians for its positive effect on glucose metabolism. In India, it is known as “gurmar,” Hindi for “sugar destroyer.” It was said to inhibit sugar absorption beyond its effect on the tongue.

“The atomic arrangement of bioactive gymnemic acid molecules is actually similar to that of glucose molecules,” explains Lev. “These molecules fill the receptor locations on the taste buds and prevent activation by sugar molecules present in the food, thereby curbing the sugar craving.”

In India, gurmar leaves are chewed to elicit the effect. “We were startled by how quickly this works,” notes Lev. “We sought a more effective, fun, and convenient delivery method for this herb, and so set out to overcome its characteristic bitter flavor.”

The duo experimented with homemade chewing gum recipes at first, using home gum-making kits. Then they combined the techniques with their nutritional knowledge to derive an ideal recipe using a few select natural sweeteners. The formula was further perfected with the help of a leading Israeli confectionary manufacturer.

Today, following sourcing of organic gymnema leaves in India, the start-up manufactures its plant-based gum in a facility in Italy approved for producing functional supplements and is available in peppermint, lemon and ginger.

The gum has undergone a successful pilot study at the Obesity Research Center of the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. One of the participants stated: “I chew the gum twice a day when I get the urge for something sweet, and I feel that the sweet I eat is tasteless. I even tried a chocolate mousse and it tasted sour! Most surprising is that I have no desire to eat.”

Lahav adds that the gum works on both a physical and a psychological level.

“Most people crave something sweet at certain times of the day, usually after lunch and at night. Over time, it becomes an automatic instinct that makes the habit even harder to break,” she said. “Chewing Sweet Victory gum at those challenging moments can slowly break bad habits and help build better, healthier habits.”

Further clinical trials to determine its effect on blood sugar levels in persons with diabetes are in the pipeline.

Sweet Victory is available commercially in Panama, France, and Israel and will shortly make its way to the USA. From there, the start-up will gradually proceed with a global roll-out.

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