I had a hard time enlisting friends to try Sugar Blocker Gum. Their responses ranged from a genuinely confused "Why would anyone want to block the taste of sugar?" to "No way!"

When told that my preteen daughter had chewed a tab in the interests of science, they asked, "Did you have to pay her?"

Sugar Blocker Gum is basically Antabuse for chocoholics, and is marketed as a tool for weight loss. The idea is that when you get a craving for dessert, you pop a tab of spearmint Sugar Blocker instead. An ingredient in the gum is chemically similar to sugar, so it binds to the sugar-receptor sites on your tongue. If you eat a doughnut soon thereafter, the sugar in it can’t get to your tongue, and the doughnut tastes awful.

The idea, says nutritionist and Grosse Pointe native Keith Klein of the Institute of Eating Management in Houston, Texas, which markets the gum, is to set up an aversion; hopefully your mind will be "reprogrammed" and you’ll avoid doughnuts next time.

The physical effect, as opposed to the psychological outcome, is supposed to last up to an hour, but when I chewed Sugar Blocker and bit a chocolate cookie 18 minutes later, it tasted only slightly less sweet than normal.

Later I tried two tabs of gum, followed immediately by a cookie. This time the cookie wasn’t sweet, although it wasn’t disgusting, either. You’d have no reason to finish that particular cookie, but you wouldn’t be turned off to cookies for all time.

When I reported to Klein that my results were less than the promised "very unpleasant," he suggested I try a Kit-Kat or a sugary pop. "Some things taste disgusting," he said. "Others, like M&Ms, taste like nothing. In diet soda you’d only taste the chemicals." (Which is all I taste in diet soda anyway.)

Sugar Blocker should work on alcohol too, since alcohol is a form of sugar. "Wine will taste like vinegar," promises the promo literature, "and beer will taste like, well, urine."

I found cold Chardonnay tasted like communion wine (a definite disincentive to finish the glass) and Labatt tasted like, well, beer.

David Klurfeld, chair of the department of nutrition and food science at Wayne State, says, "Think of all the sweet things you like. Do you want to chew them all day long? Decades of research on what motivates people to eat and snack show that it isn’t hunger most of the time. People are bored, or they’re happy, or sad. There are so many extraneous factors that cause you to want to eat, I’m not sure chewing gum is the answer."

To which Klein would reply that a craving usually lasts 15 minutes – if you can chew gum instead (remind you of quitting smoking?), you can overcome the craving. Till the next time.

Even if it works, there’s no free antilunch. A 30-tab supply costs 68 cents per piece. You can order online or by calling 888-221-7807.–Jane Slaughter


Taste culinary temptation at an Erotic Dinner, to be held at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, in the Studio Gallery of Robert Maniscalco (17329 Mack, Detroit). Tickets are $20 and include food, erotic entertainment (?) and more. Call 810-463-3486 for reservations. … You can now order your favorite Zingerman’s breads and other treats right from your desk! Visit the Ann Arbor deli’s new Web site and click your way to gourmet nirvana.

About The Author

Jane Slaughter

When she's not reviewing restaurants, Jane Slaughter also writes about labor affairs, having co-founding the labor magazine Labor Notes. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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