A Gum-Chewing Habit May Have Caused The Death Of A 19-Year-Old Girl

A teenager from South Wales may have died from eating up to 14 sticks of sugar-free gum a day.

The Huffington Post reports 19-year-old Samantha Jenkins mentioned headaches months before suffering violent convulsions in June 2011.

She then fell into a coma and died at the hospital.

Doctors discovered Jenkins had dangerously low levels of magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium in her system, giving doctors the impression she either overdosed or was poisoned.

The death was attributed to natural causes, according to Daily Mail.

But Jenkins' mother, Maria Morgan, discovered hundreds of Trident wrappers in her daughter's bags and bedroom.

She spent the last four years campaigning for an inquest aiming to ascertain the role of artificial sweeteners in the death.

On May 4, 2015, Morgan told a Swansea Coroner's Court,

While investigating sorbitol and aspartame poisoning myself I was shocked and saddened to find they can interfere with the electrolytes in your body causing your salts to drop dangerously and that if you have severe cramps after consuming sorbitol you should seek medical help immediately. I just want answers for my beautiful little girl so that we as a family can finally have closure and that maybe the public response could mean changes in awareness of these additives, warning on packets and educating families on the dangers of these additives.

Pathologist Dr. Paul Griffiths revealed he found "four or five bright green lumps" in Jenkins' stomach.

He said,

I had to smell them to see what they were and they smelled of mint.

Jenkins consumed around 16.8 grams of artificial sweeteners a day, Dr. Griffiths concluded.

The result may have been an elimination of electrolytes and inability to absorb vital minerals.

But naming such chemicals as a direct cause of death, Dr. Griffiths said, would be entering "uncharted waters."

He told the court,

There is very little evidence. No one has actually died as a result of chewing gum. I think there is a potential for this much gum to cause this problem, but it's not hard fact.

Senior Coroner Colin Phillips ruled the cause of death as "swelling of the brain triggered by convulsions due to a lack of salt, magnesium and calcium."

Phillips added,

Excessive consumption of chewing gum may have played a role in inducing [the] lack of minerals and mineral depletion.

Dr. Griffiths will be contacting drug officials about the potential dangers of consuming excessive amounts of artificial sweetener.

Citations: Teenage girls 14 a day chewing gum habit may have killed her mother who found HUNDREDS of wrappers in her bedroom tells inquest (Daily Mail), Teen Samantha Jenkins Died From Too Much Chewing Gum (The Huffington Post)