The company, called Sweet Victory, formulated the product using botanicals. It tastes like regular gum and comes in two flavours: peppermint and ginger-lemon.
It works within two minutes by blocking the sugar receptors on the tongue, and its effect can last up to two hours, the company said. During that time sweet foods or beverages that normally excite the senses will taste bland or even sour, and the impulse for a sweets binge can be abated, lasting even longer than the physical effect.
“Most of us battle with sweet cravings on a daily basis,” said Gitit Lahav, a psychologist who spent almost a decade researching the link between nutrition and psychology. Lahav co-founded Sweet Victory with nutritionist Shimrit Lev. “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.”
With their background in botanicals, Lahav and Lev turned to the ancient Indian botanical gymnema, (Gymnema sylvestre) known from Ayurvedic tradition for its positive effect on glucose metabolism.
In India, it is known as “gurmar,” Hindi for “sugar destroyer” and 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,” explained 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 often chewed to elicit the effect. “We were startled by how quickly this works,” noted Lev. “We sought a more effective, fun, and convenient delivery method for this herb, and so set out to overcome its characteristic bitter flavour.”
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 makes its gum in a facility in Italy approved for producing functional supplements.
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.”
According to Innova Market Insights’ global Health and Nutrition Survey, in 2021, 37% of global consumers indicated they decreased their sugar intake over the past 12 months. These efforts reflect the widely held view that high sugar consumption is a causative factor for a range of conditions, including dental caries, weight gain, and diabetes. Research has suggested a role for sugar in activating the opiate receptors (the reward centers) in the brain, which could explain its attractive nature.
“The gum works on both a physical and a psychological level,” added Lahav. “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. 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 France, where it costs 7.7 euros for a pack of 12 pieces, Panama and Israel. It is set to launch in the US then globally. It plans more flavours for 2022, it said.