(Besides acting as wall décor in Seattle)
Let’s talk about gum.
More specifically, chewing gum. But even more specifically, the act of chewing gum.
Most of the time, when we think of chewing a piece of gum, the first thing that comes to mind is freshening our breath. We all know that gum can come in clutch after you’ve eaten your weight in garlic knots at the Italian restaurant and your breath has the potential to ward off vampires for decades to come. But what else do we know about how chewing gum can benefit your body and even your brain?
We know that people from different civilizations all over the world have been producing and chewing some form of gum for centuries. The ancient Greeks chewed resin from the Mastic tree to sweeten their breath and clean their teeth. In Central America, native tribes like the Mayans also harvested and chewed on the sap from Sapodilla trees for similar reasons. With the extensive history and the overwhelming amount of options out there for consumers, there has got to be more to gum chewing than just acting as a quick stand-in for a toothbrush when you’re on the go. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled this list of 6 other reasons that gum chewing can benefit your life – aside from making your breath more bearable on the fly.
1. Assist with Cognitive Performance
Have you ever read an article, got to the end of the page and then caught yourself thinking, “What in the world did I just read?” Yeah, me too. A little more often than I would like to admit, if we’re being honest. Sure, the article you were reading may have actually been boring and struggled to grab your attention, but it probably had more to do with your mind wandering. Things may have gone a little differently if you had a piece of gum to chew while you read. There are studies that suggest that chewing gum while performing tasks can help to increase your focus and brain performance on said task.
This study published by the British Psychological Society, concluded that chewing gum could extend your focus for longer concentration times on tasks, specifically visual ones. So next time your boss hands you a new project, or you are studying for an exam, pop a piece of chewing gum in and get down to business.
2. Improve Memory
According to a study conducted by St. Lawrence University’s Department of Psychology, participants who chewed gum prior testing had performed better than those who chewed gum during testing or did not chew gum at all. Though the enhanced performance only lasted about 15-20 minutes, it still created an advantage during the test. This study suggests that chewing gum could enhance the ability to recall information and cognitively perform better under pressure. So next time you’re studying for your exams or prepping for a presentation at the office, try chewing on a piece of gum to get your synapses communicating!
3. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Sit back, relax, chew some gum and watch your worries melt away. No, I’m kidding. But have you ever had a sudden bout of anxiety come out of nowhere? How do you cope when stressed out mentally, or physically? This happens to me quite often and when it does, I usually have the urge to eat. You know what I’m talking about. Stress eating is not an uncommon phenomenon; however, there may be some science behind why the urge to stuff your face can help you feel better in that moment.
A study by Swinburne University shows that chewing gum can actually reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in saliva. The reduction of cortisol can also be increased depending on chewing speeds. This leads me to believe that the desire to eat when stressed could be me misinterpreting the desire to chew. Another study conducted by the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan, chewing gum for 14 days may improve the levels of anxiety, mood and fatigue. Instead of eating an entire large pizza by myself next time I am stressed out, I think I will just stick a piece of gum in my mouth and watch the cortisol levels decrease.
4. Curb Appetite
On top of helping reduce your desire to pig-out when stressed, chewing gum can also help you drop a few extra pounds by curbing your appetite. To be clear, I’m not saying that by chewing a piece of gum you are now exempt to the worldly needs and desires of caloric consumption, but it can have an impact on your impulse eating.
This may have something to do with your brain’s reward system or even providing an action or task to perform to keep you occupied, so impulse eating is not done out of boredom. Don’t take my word for it - there was an in-depth study also conducted by the Tokyo Medical and Dental University if you are a facts and numbers type of person.
5. Increase Alertness
Afternoon slumps can be hard to shake. An hour or so after lunch, and all you want to do is take a nap. You find yourself day dreaming about anything other than the task at hand. Don’t let this be the reason you’re denied a promotion or fall behind on your to-do list. Studies have shown that the simple act of chewing gum can increase alertness and combat daytime sleepiness! This is suspected to be due to either heightened cerebral activity from chewing or an increase in arousal from mint flavorings. Either way, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the chewing) so give it a try for yourself and see if you notice any difference in your energy levels and alertness.
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6. Increase Saliva Production + Improve Oral Health
Chewing gum has a long history of being thought of as a treat or a form of candy, so it may come as a surprise that the American Dental Association actually recommends sugar-free gum to help protect your teeth and oral health.
“If you chew sugarless gum after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth. Over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating the conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.” –ADA (American Dental Association 2016)
The ADA also recommends looking for a chewing gum with active agents that can help in the protectant and re-mineralization of teeth. Xylitol is a great option as an all natural sweetener with half the calories of sugar and does not spike insulin or blood sugar levels. In addition, Xylitol also combats plaque causing bacteria and can help prevent tooth decay.
Did you know that Liquid Core® Gum Brands use more Xylitol per piece than any other chewing gum on the market?
By now, you should have realized that chewing gum could play a larger role in your life than just fixing your stinky breath. With increases in cognitive performance, memory, alertness and oral health while helping with the decrease of stress and anxiety, as well as impulse hunger, chewing gum can prove to be a handy sidekick for day-to-day life. Also keep in mind that you can up those benefits by selecting a quality, functional chewing gum with added active agents to magnify the effects.
Center for Scientific Information, ADA Science Institute. (2016, August 24). Oral Health Topics: Chewing Gum. Retrieved from https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/chewing-gum
British Psychological Society (BPS). (2013, March 8). Chewing gum helps you concentrate for longer, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 17, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130308093933.htm
Ikeda, A., Miyamoto, J. J., Usui, N., Taira, M., & Moriyama, K. (2018, February 08). Chewing Stimulation Reduces Appetite Ratings and Attentional Bias toward Visual Food Stimuli in Healthy-Weight Individuals. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5809478/
Johnson, A. J., Miles, C., Haddrell, B., Harrison, E., Osborne, L., Wilson, N., & Jenks, R. (2012, February 01). The effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness and daytime sleepiness. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22061430
Onyper, S. V., Carr, T. L., Farrar, J. S., & Floyd, B. R. (2011, October). Cognitive advantages of chewing gum. Now you see them, now you don't. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21645566
Sasaki-Otomaru, A., Sakuma, Y., Mochizuki, Y., Ishida, S., Kanoya, Y., & Sato, C. (n.d.). Effect of regular gum chewing on levels of anxiety, mood, and fatigue in healthy young adults. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21866229
Scholey, A., Haskell, C., Robertson, B., Kennedy, D., Milne, A., & Wetherell, M. (2009, June 22). Chewing gum alleviates negative mood and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19268676