Chew on this: Gum may not only satisfy taste buds and freshen breath. Studies have found chewing a stick of gum may enhance cognitive performance and even improve mood .
Bubblicious Brainpower — The Takeaway
While coffee is indeed amazing for you, there’s another way to get a quick boost of
concentration without the caffeine jitters. Chewing gum can help increase alertness and attention. In one study, chewing gum was an A+ advantage: People performed better on verbal and math problems and were about 10 percent more alert when they chomped away . Other research suggests chewing gum can boost brainpower in people of all ages. Middle-school gum chewers received higher grades in math compared to non-chewers . (That’s why I was so bad at algebra…). And a stick of Trident (or another favorite brand, of course!) may even be helpful during a long day at the office, since chewing mint or caffeinated gum can decrease sleepiness  .
A boost of happiness may be found inside the wrapper, too. A stick of gum has proved to increase heart rate and cortisol levels, which sometimes results in a better mood . Another study found two weeks of gum-chewing decreased participants’ anxiety and some symptoms of depression (Let’s hope it wasn’t the same piece the whole time.) .
There may not be a definitive reason for chewing gum’s magical mental enhancement. Lucky for teeth, the answer isn’t the sugar, since scientists have experimented with sugar-filled and sugar-free gum. Some experts suggest it may not be the gum itself, but rather the act of chewing that keeps us alert and focused.
But the effects of chewing gum may last only as long as its flavor. People who chewed gum five minutes before tackling a series of cognitive tasks only performed better than a control group for the first 20 minutes . Pro tip: Save that Juicy Fruit for the hardest part of the test, and then spit it out.
Pop a stick of gum to help increase attention, boost mood, and ward off sleepiness.
Photo by Darren Hester