Will Chewing and Spitting Cause Weight Gain?

By November 15, 2012

Hi. All I want to know is if chewing and spitting causes weight gain or not. I have heard both ends of the story and I need to know if the calories absorbed are negligible or if it’s like a good percent of the food that you chew and spit. I don’t chew and spit too often, but I do it occasionally and it would help to know if I am gaining many calories from this activity. Thanks, Marisa

Dear Marisa,

The simple answer is that the calories absorbed from chewing and spitting are negligible. Since food is not exposed to digestive enzymes of the gastrointestinal tract, fats, proteins and carbohydrates cannot be digested (broken down into small pieces) and therefore not absorbed. In fact, only an invert sugar like honey, which is predigested by the bee into glucose, could be absorbed through the tongue and contribute calories.

That said, the few calories that you would absorb by actually swallowing the bite are not the real problem. The greater concern and more important question is if chewing and spitting causes weight gain. This has a potentially more damaging explanation.

There are two phases of eating that precede absorption. They are referred to the “cephalic” and “tasting” phases of eating. Cephalic is the suggestion of food, such as seeing, smelling and hearing about food. The tasting phase is the post-ingestive and pre-absorptive phase which would be chewing and spitting. Both the cephalic and tasting phase trigger the release of insulin, which is not a good thing if you have ever been overweight and especially if you have lost weight. Excess insulin is a dieter’s worst nightmare because it raises appetite, makes it easy to gain weight and makes it difficult to lose weight. Also the resulting hyper-insulinemia is a precursor of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and eventually diabetes.

You write, “I don’t chew and spit too often, but I do it occasionally.” If you get too close to the fire you will get burned. Can you be a little bit pregnant? You can’t fool Mother Nature and if you get too close to the edge of the cliff you will fall. We have learned from the gastric bypass surgical patients that “chewing and spitting” is inappropriate and has the strong possibility of progressing to an eating disorder.

Chewing and spitting may seem like a reasonable compromise for getting the benefits of tasting without the negligible contribution of calories, but it is an inappropriate behavior that may very well have negative and health threatening consequences.

Dr. Carson