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Chew away the Blues

Chewing gum. Source: Google Creative Commons.

Chewing gum. Source: Google Creative Commons.

Feeling stressed, dull or even inattentive? Well chewing gum might be the solution! In recent years there has been a growing interest in the effect of chewing gum on brain function.

One of the most consistently observed psychological effect of chewing gum has been positive alertness, for example limiting daytime sleepiness, improving multi-masking activities and improving selective attention. The actual mechanism of this positive effect on alertness is unclear, however some theories suggest that alertness could be due to increased blood flow and/or activity in the brain.

Apparently another effect of chewing gum is the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. This theory had been suggested years ago in the late 1930s, where Hollingworth (1939) reported that chewing was a ‘technique of relaxation’, as it releases excess energy. Although the findings from recent papers have not shown a significant effect of gum on stress, there is an association of some sort. Studies investigating naturally occurring stress have consistently found a beneficial effect of chewing gum in reducing stress. Such studies found:

  • A decrease in stress levels for frequent and non-frequent chewers.
  • A reduction in fatigue, anxiety and depression.
  • A more positive mood.

How about cognition? There have been a number of studies that have examined the effects of chewing gum on memory and attention. However, there is not enough evidence to support the claim that chewing gum improves memory. That being said, a few studies have reported that gum does have a positive effect on working memory – that is information needed temporarily e.g. telephone number.

Another interesting factor of gum that can affect the brain is the flavour. It is possible that flavoured gum, as well as the mechanical movement of chewing, work in combination to stimulate brain function.

So what is the purpose of research in chewing gum you ask? Well by understanding how it affects the human body and mind, it could be a simple way to improve your wellbeing. While there is no guarantee of a positive effect from chewing gum, the findings suggest it can be a healthy alternative for improving alertness and relieving stress.

So chew away I say!

2 thoughts on “Chew away the Blues

  1. This doesn’t surprise me! When I’m nodding off at work in the office or while being driven I find that chewing gum, talking or singing along to the radio are the only things that keep me awake. I guess all that mechanical action stops you from falling asleep!

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