Sudden convulsions led to the death of a teenager. The convulsion was due to mineral malabsorption secondary to excess chewing gums in the stomach
A 19-year-old girl named Samantha Jenkins was admitted to the hospital after she had a violent fit. Unfortunately, she passed away in her mother’s arms soon after. The girl was not feeling well for the past 6 months due to the malabsorption of vital minerals. Several large lumps of chewing gums were found in her digestive tract.
Her mother, Maria Morgan, believed that Samantha died due to Aspartame and Sorbitol – the two ingredients present in sugar-free gums and diet fizzy drinks.
“I looked through my daughter’s bags, drawers and bedroom; and I found hundreds of sugar-free Trident wrappers and receipts with several packets of chewing gum on them.”
“From the time Sam went into the hospital on the Friday evening ’till they turned her machines off on Monday evening; the doctors, neurosurgeons and numerous consultants were baffled as to what had caused all her salts to be so dangerously low and were convinced she had been poisoned. The continuous fitting had caused her brain to swell, causing her to have a brain stem death. She never regained consciousness.“
“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.”
An autopsy revealed several large fragments of chewing gum in the deceased stomach
Dr. Paul Griffiths, the Pathologist explained that the low calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium levels were responsible for the fatal convulsions. The low minerals may be due to malabsorption caused by lumps of chewing gum in her digestive system.
“It was unusual; there were about four to five lumps of it. There is very little evidence. There are only two case reports about weight loss; no one has actually died as a result of chewing gum. I think there is a potential for this much chewing gum to cause this problem; however, it’s not a hard fact.”
He explained that 14 slips of chewing gums are equivalent to around 16.8 grams of artificial sweeteners in a day which is a substantial amount.
Dr. Griffith added:
“If you look at what you give patients of chronic constipation, we give them 20 grammes a day, and then we reduce it. She was taking enough to have a laxative effect.”
The doctor assured that he would report the case to the drug monitoring unit; thereafter, it will be up to them if they would like to investigate further.
It was concluded by the coroner that:
“Sam’s death was due to complications arising from convulsions, due to electrolyte imbalance, due to malabsorption. Excessive consumption of chewing gum may have played a role in inducing this lack of minerals and mineral depletion.”