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 moodEffects of chewing gum on cognitive function, mood and physiology in stressed and non-stressed volunteers. Smith, A. Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2010 Feb;13(1):7-16..
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 awayEffects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test. Smith, A. Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2009 Apr;12(2):81-8.. 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-chewersBrief report: Gum chewing affects standardized math scores in adolescents. Johnston, C.A., Tyler, C., Stansberry, S.A. USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics-Nutrition, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. Journal of Adolescence, 2011 May 25.. (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 sleepinessThe effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness and daytime sleepiness. Johnson, A.J., Miles, C., Haddrell, B., et al. Department of Psychology, Coventry University, Coventry, UK. Physiology & Behavior, 2012 Feb 1;105(3):815-20. Epub 2011 Oct 28. Effects of caffeine in chewing gum on mood and attention. Smith, A. Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Human Psychopharmacology, 2009 Apr;24(3):239-47..
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 moodEffects of chewing gum on cognitive function, mood and physiology in stressed and non-stressed volunteers. Smith, A. Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2010 Feb;13(1):7-16.. 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.)Effect of Regular Gum Chewing on Levels of Anxiety, Mood, and Fatigue in Healthy Young Adults. Sasaki-Otomaru, A., Mochizuki, S., Kanoya, Y., et al. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 2011; 7: 133–139..
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 minutesCognitive advantages of chewing gum. Now you see them, now you don’t. Onyper, S.V., Carr, T.L., Farrar, J.S., et al. Department of Psychology, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY. Appetite, 2011 Oct;57(2):321-8. Epub 2011 May 27.. 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