Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Are Jawbreakers Bad For You?

Also Known As: Gobstopper



Short answer

Jawbreakers are high in sugar and can pose dental risks such as tooth decay, sticky surfaces that cling to teeth, and potential physical harm from their hardness. They also represent a choking hazard, especially for children. The artificial colors and flavors in jawbreakers raise concerns about long-term health effects, including behavioral issues in kids. Consuming such high-sugar, high-GI treats frequently may lead to chronic health issues like weight gain and diabetes. Healthier alternatives like dark chocolate, fruit leathers, and nut clusters are recommended.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Sugar Content and Dental Health Risks of Jawbreakers

Jawbreakers, also known as gobstoppers, are a classic candy known for their hardness and the prolonged period it takes to dissolve them in the mouth. While they may be nostalgic and enjoyable for many, the sugar content and potential dental health risks associated with jawbreakers are topics of concern among health professionals. Let's explore these aspects in more detail.

Sugar Content in Jawbreakers:

  • Jawbreakers are primarily made of sugar and contain various layers of flavored syrups.
  • A single standard-sized jawbreaker can contain up to 20-30 grams of sugar, equivalent to several teaspoons. Given that The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men, one jawbreaker could easily surpass or meet an individual's daily limit.
  • The slow-dissolving nature of a jawbreaker means that the sugar is released gradually, resulting in prolonged exposure to sugar which can be particularly harmful to teeth.

Impact on Dental Health:

  • Tooth Decay: The extended period of time a jawbreaker remains in the mouth can increase the risk for tooth decay. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars, producing acids that can erode tooth enamel. Regular consumption of high-sugar candies like jawbreakers can accelerate this process.
  • Sticky Surface: Once a jawbreaker starts to dissolve, its surface can become sticky, adhering to the crevices of teeth. This makes it even more difficult for saliva to wash away the sugar, compounding the risk of cavities.
  • Physical Harm: The very hardness of jawbreakers can also pose a risk of dental damage, such as cracked or broken teeth, especially if a person attempts to bite into them.
  • Gum Disease: Long-term sugar exposure can also contribute to gum disease, a condition that can lead to further oral health issues and has been linked to systemic health problems.

Studies have pointed out the direct correlation between sugary foods and dental caries. For instance, research published in the Journal of Dental Research concluded that sugar intake is a strong risk factor for cavities, with candies that stay in the mouth for an extended period being particularly problematic.

While occasional consumption of jawbreakers might not lead to immediate dental problems, consistent intake, and poor dental hygiene can significantly increase the risks of developing oral health issues. Health-conscious individuals, particularly those with a history of dental problems, might want to limit their consumption of jawbreakers or avoid them altogether to minimize these risks.

It is important to balance the enjoyment of sweets like jawbreakers with a commitment to thorough oral hygiene. Brushing teeth twice daily, flossing, and routine visits to the dentist can help mitigate the dental health risks associated with sugary candies.

Choking Hazards Associated with Jawbreakers

When it comes to hard candies like jawbreakers, one of the primary safety concerns is the risk of choking. Jawbreakers, due to their size, hardness, and round shape, can be particularly hazardous. Especially in children, the risk of a jawbreaker becoming lodged in the throat is significantly higher. Let's delve into how and why jawbreakers pose a choking threat.

  • Size and Consistency: Jawbreakers come in various sizes, some large enough to completely block the airway if inhaled or swallowed improperly. Their hard, solid structure does not readily break down in the mouth, which means that if they are accidentally swallowed, they can get stuck and obstruct breathing.
  • Young Children: Children are at an increased risk. Their smaller airways make it easier for a jawbreaker to cause obstruction. Additionally, children might not have the patience to let the candy dissolve slowly and are more likely to try biting into it, which can lead to pieces breaking off and becoming choking hazards.
  • Improper Eating Practices: Sometimes, individuals consume jawbreakers in a dangerous manner, such as by lying down or talking while eating, which can increase the likelihood of the candy slipping into the throat unexpectedly.

A study in the journal Pediatrics emphasizes the risks that hard candies pose for children, noting that they account for a substantial number of choking incidents. The journal urges caregivers and parents to supervise children closely when they are eating these types of candy.

Moreover, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding giving hard candies like jawbreakers to children under the age of four entirely. For older children, adults, and especially those with swallowing difficulties, caution is also advised when enjoying such confections.

Eating jawbreakers responsibly involves allowing them to dissolve in the mouth slowly, without biting, and ensuring others are aware of the potential hazards. It is always best to enjoy jawbreakers and similar candies while seated and without distractions to reduce the risk of choking.

Despite these precautions, it’s crucial to acknowledge that accidental choking can still occur. In such an event, knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver or seeking immediate medical attention is vital.

Artificial Colors and Flavors in Jawbreakers: Safety Concerns

When biting into a vibrant jawbreaker, one can't help but marvel at the swirls and blasts of color. However, the bright hues in jawbreakers aren't the work of a magical candy fairy - they're typically the result of artificial coloring agents. While these additives make treats like jawbreakers visually appealing, especially to children, there are safety concerns associated with artificial colors and flavors. Let's unwrap and examine the potential health implications of these components:

Firstly, artificial colors are chemical compounds that mimic the appearance of natural sources of color. It's essential to highlight that several of these, including Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are commonly found in confectionery. These synthetic food dyes have been the subject of intense scrutiny and scientific study.

Research indicates that certain artificial colors may be linked to behavioral issues in children. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics suggested a possible relationship between the intake of artificial food coloring and increased hyperactivity in some children. Additionally, there's been a longstanding debate on whether artificial colors contribute to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

For those with sensitivities or allergies, artificial colors can be problematic as well. Though rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to certain food dyes, triggering symptoms ranging from hives to respiratory issues.

On the flip side of the jawbreaker, we have artificial flavors. While the function of these additives is to enhance or replicate particular taste profiles, they too come with their cautionary tales. Synthetic flavorings are engineered compounds that may contain an array of chemical elements, some of which, like propylene glycol or various aldehydes, could raise eyebrows about their long-term consumption effects.

It's critical to understand that while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems these artificial additives safe for consumption in the amounts typically found in foods, long-term exposure and the effects of consumption at higher levels are less understood. Furthermore, consumer advocacy groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have called for heightened regulation and even bans on certain artificial colors due to health concerns.

Here's a list breakdown of common artificial colors found in jawbreakers, with notes on their status and concerns:

  • Blue 1 (Brilliant Blue FCF): FDA-approved, but Europe requires a warning on labels due to possible adverse effects on activity and attention in children.
  • Red 40 (Allura Red AC): The most widely used food dye in the U.S., also FDA-approved, yet similarly flagged in Europe for potential behavioral effects.
  • Yellow 5 (Tartrazine): Known to cause allergic reactions, especially among those with aspirin intolerance or asthma, and carries a warning label in the EU.
  • Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow): Another FDA-approved dye, but has been associated with hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children, per some studies.

Deciphering the less-is-more mantra of artificial additives may be a solid approach for those concerned with their consumption. By staying informed about the types of artificial colors and flavors found in sweets like jawbreakers and their potential health implications, consumers can make more mindful choices that align with their personal health objectives and concerns.

The Long-Term Effects of Consuming Hard Sweets

When it comes to the long-term health implications of consuming hard sweets, such as jawbreakers, there are several factors to consider. These impacts can be wide-ranging, affecting dental health, dietary habits, and the potential for chronic health issues. It's important to note that the frequency and quantity of consumption play a crucial role in determining the long-term effects on individuals.

Dental Concerns:

  • Tooth Decay: Hard sweets are high in sugar, which is a primary cause of tooth decay. The bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar left on teeth after eating sweets, producing acid that erodes tooth enamel.
  • Physical Damage: Chewing hard candies like jawbreakers can lead to dental fractures or cracked teeth, which can require costly dental procedures to repair.

Dietary Impact:

  • Sugar Addiction: Regular consumption of high-sugar treats can lead to a preference for sweet tastes, potentially contributing to an overall diet that's high in added sugars.
  • Nutrient Displacement: Filling up on sweets may reduce the intake of more nutritious foods, which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies over time.

Chronic Health Issues:

  • Weight Gain: High-calorie, sugary snacks like jawbreakers contribute to excess calorie intake, which can cause weight gain and subsequently increase the risk of obesity-related conditions.
  • Increased Risk of Diabetes: A diet high in sugar can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Over time, the body's ability to manage blood glucose levels may be impaired.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Constant intake of sugar-laden candy is linked with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and increased waist circumference.

Research, like the study mentioned in the Journal of the American Dental Association, confirms that prolonged exposure to sugary foods significantly increases the chances of dental decay (JADA, 2003). Additionally, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has associated frequent sugar intake with obesity and metabolic syndrome (AJCN, 2009).

Conscious consumption of treats like jawbreakers is essential. Moderation and attention to the broader diet can help mitigate these long-term health risks. Brushing teeth after indulging in sweets or opting for sugar-free versions can also be beneficial strategies to prevent some of the adverse effects discussed.

Jawbreakers and Glycemic Index: Implications for Blood Sugar Control

When considering the glycemic index (GI) of foods, which is a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food, we find that jawbreakers, like many other sugary candies, have a high GI. This means that jawbreakers can cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. The implications of this quick surge are particularly significant for individuals with insulin resistance, diabetes, or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels for other health reasons.

The high sugar content in jawbreakers, primarily in the form of sucrose, is the primary factor attributing to their high GI. The body breaks down sucrose quickly, leading to a swift release of glucose into the bloodstream. This rapid spike in blood sugar can be challenging to mitigate and may require those with diabetes to use more insulin.

Moreover, jawbreakers are typically consumed slowly due to their hard nature. This slow consumption does not necessarily mean a slower absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, but rather a prolonged period of sugar intake. Thus, there could be a sustained elevation of blood sugar levels over an extended period, which can be problematic for maintaining optimal glycemic control.

Furthermore, the size of jawbreakers can vary, and larger ones may contain more sugar, leading to even greater increases in blood sugar levels. For those monitoring their dietary intake, it's crucial to be aware of the portion size when consuming high-GI foods like jawbreakers.

Individuals without blood sugar conditions should also be cautious. Repeated spikes in blood sugar levels can contribute to insulin resistance over time, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes. With their high sugar content and GI, jawbreakers are not an ideal choice for those looking to manage their weight, as they provide no nutritional value and can increase cravings for more sugary and high-calorie foods.

  • Rapid blood sugar increase due to high GI
  • Prolonged period of sugar intake from slow consumption
  • Larger size equals more sugar, leading to greater blood sugar spikes
  • Repeated high blood sugar spikes can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes risk
  • Minimal nutritional value and potential for increased calorie intake and weight gain

To those managing blood sugar levels, it's advisable to limit the intake of candies like jawbreakers. Opting for snacks with a lower glycemic index, which have less impact on blood sugar, may be a better alternative. For those particularly concerned about their glycemic response, it is prudent to discuss their diet, including jawbreaker consumption, with a healthcare provider or a dietitian.

Alternative Treats: Balancing Indulgence and Health

For those with a sweet tooth, finding a balance between indulgent treats and health-conscious choices can be a challenge. Jawbreakers, with their long-lasting appeal and vibrant colors, entice many candy enthusiasts. But as we're aware, regularly consuming these hard candies isn't ideal for your health. Let's explore healthier alternatives that satisfy cravings while offering nutritional benefits.

Dark Chocolate

A rich source of antioxidants, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70-85%) can be a superior alternative to jawbreakers. Research indicates that flavonoids found in cocoa may improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. Opt for a small piece of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth while reaping potential health perks.

  • Antioxidant content: May reduce oxidative stress
  • Sugar content: Less sugar compared to milk chocolate or candy
  • Portion control: Easier to consume in moderation

Fruit Leathers

For a chewy and flavorful treat, consider fruit leathers made from pureed fruit. With no added sugar, these snacks retain the natural sweetness and nutrients of fruit, such as fiber and vitamins. Unlike jawbreakers, fruit leathers contribute to your daily fruit intake, making them a smarter choice for a guilt-free nibble.

  • Fiber content: Aids in digestion
  • Natural sweeteners: Fructose from fruit instead of refined sugars
  • Variety of flavors: A wide range of fruity options

Frozen Grapes or Berries

Frozen grapes or berries offer a refreshing and naturally sweet alternative with the added benefit of essential vitamins and antioxidants. Freezing the fruit transforms it into a satisfyingly frosty snack, which can take longer to eat and may help with portion control. They're especially enjoyable on a hot day and are a whole food without any of the artificial colors or flavors that come with many traditional candies.

  • Low calorie: Nutrient-dense with fewer calories
  • Natural sweetness: A healthier way to indulge a sugar craving
  • Hydration: High water content helps maintain hydration

Nut and Seed Clusters

For those who crave a crunch, try nut and seed clusters. These are made with wholesome ingredients that provide a valuable source of protein and healthy fats. When lightly sweetened with honey or maple syrup, they become a satisfying treat that's much more nutrient-dense than jawbreakers.

  • Protein content: Supports muscle health
  • Healthy fats: Contributes to satiety and heart health
  • Sweetened naturally: Smarter choice than refined sugars

DIY Popsicles

Homemade popsicles made from natural fruit juice or purees can also be a delightful replacement. By controlling the ingredients, you can avoid unnecessary additives and colors often found in traditional jawbreakers. Use molds to create these frozen treats and enjoy a cooling dessert that also helps you reach your daily fruit quota.

  • Customization: Endless flavor combinations
  • No artificial additives: Full control over what you consume
  • Fun to make: An enjoyable activity for kids and adults alike

While jawbreakers may be a nostalgic childhood treat, the alternatives mentioned can offer much more in terms of nutritional value, without sacrificing taste. By choosing these healthier options, you can indulge smartly, keeping your health and enjoyment in perfect balance.

Frequently asked questions

Sugar-free jawbreakers can be a healthier option for teeth as they do not provide the sugar that oral bacteria feed on to produce acid, thus reducing the risk of tooth decay. However, they may still be hard and pose a risk for dental damage or choking, and sugar-free sweeteners may have laxative effects if consumed in large quantities.

Yes, people with diabetes are more sensitive to blood sugar spikes from high-sugar foods like jawbreakers. Jawbreakers have a high glycemic index and can lead to rapid blood sugar increases. Diabetics may require careful monitoring and possible insulin adjustments, while non-diabetics can typically manage these spikes with their body's natural insulin response.

Jawbreakers can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess, similar to other high-calorie, sugar-rich candies. Because they are consumed slowly and are enticing to eat frequently, jawbreakers might lead to increased calorie intake, potentially resulting in weight gain over time, especially if not balanced with physical activity.

Artificial colors are often listed by their color and number (e.g., Red 40, Blue 1) on ingredient labels, while artificial flavors may simply be listed as 'artificial flavors.' It's important to read candy labels carefully to identify these additives if you're trying to avoid them for health or dietary reasons.

Ask a question about Jawbreakers and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased risk of dental decay
  • sticky surface may adhere to teeth
  • potential for physical damage to teeth
  • increased risk of choking, especially in children
  • behavioral issues in children related to artificial colors
  • allergic reactions to artificial dyes
  • rapid increase in blood sugar
  • prolonged sugar intake from slow consumption

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
  • dental fractures or cracked teeth from chewing hard candies
  • sugar addiction
  • nutrient displacement leading to deficiencies
  • weight gain
  • insulin resistance
  • type 2 diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high sugar content
  • artificial colors like blue 1, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6
  • artificial flavors

Healthier alternatives

  • dark chocolate
  • fruit leathers
  • frozen grapes or berries
  • nut and seed clusters
  • homemade popsicles

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

XyloBurst Mints

  • Sugar-free
  • 100% Xylitol sweetened
  • Keto-friendly
  • Low-carb
  • Diabetic-friendly
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-01-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-01-2023

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