Can Chewing Gum Improve Brain Function?

Gum! One word, one syllable. How many times do you chew gum in one day? Why do you chew gum? To exercise your jaws or keep you awake? Or perhaps, gum helps you relieve stress. Whatever it is, the simple fact is that we all chew gum for various reasons. Gum is known all over the world. That, in itself, is an amazing fact.

Chewing gum while studying and before a test improves focus and concentration by promoting blood flow to the brain.

Apart from being an excellent replacement for antidepressants, this sweetened, flavorful guilty pleasure for many has been the subject of extensive scientific research concerning its role in the improvement of brain function and cognitive reasoning by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Studies have shown that gum isn’t just used to fill shelves in stores, the cognitive potential they have is impressive. Who knew? The secret of the smartest employee in your office might just be that he gets busy with one or two pieces of gum while he/she works.

Studies have shown a lot in recent years. Gum is primarily known for its ability to significantly reduce anxiety, stimulate appetite and positively affect mood and concentration. But there have been more questions in recent years about its effect on brain function, if at all, there is. I can tell you categorically that there is a relationship. Read on to find out more.

Chewing Gum and Brain Function

A study was conducted in Cardiff University in the UK on the correlation between chewing gum and learning, memory and mental alertness. Two sets of volunteers were asked to come in for several weeks. Within those weeks, there were two sessions several days apart. The first session included testing with gum and assessed their mood, ability to immediately remember information from a story read to them and performance on short term memory tasks.

The second session included testing with no gum and it assessed the mood of the volunteers, delayed remembrance of details from a story read to them and performance in Alice Heim Test, a specific assessment that tests intelligence.

The results of this study showed almost no tangible effect of chewing gum on the ability of the volunteers to remember details of the story. However, the effects of chewing gum on concentration and focus was undeniable. Chewing gum enhanced performance in the Alice Heim Test; it helped the volunteers concentrate and as a result improved their accuracy.

Chewing gum had no substantial influence on short term memory but it improved their capacity for alertness during the test.

This test showed that while you take a test chewing gum it can improve your alertness and focus and by extension over all test performance. If you were to take a test, it would be advisable to chew a piece of gum just before you start to increase blood flow to your brain, thereby making sure you are alert and prepared for your test.

Does chewing gum help your brain at all?

In 2011, Live Science carried out an important study involving the influence of chewing gum on the human brain as it affects test or examination performance. The study showed that to get optimum results from chewing gum for increased test performance, you should chew the gum before the test and not during the test.

Reason for this is, the masticating process involved in this action pumps more blood to the head and subsequently the brain. This action of chewing gum increases heart rate and blood pressure which gets more blood flowing and faster to this important organ.

It is largely believed in the research community that chewing gum activates the brain by ‘warming it up’ and this improves brain function.

The result was termed ‘mastication induced arousal’. This means chewing gum positively affects your brain, if you chew it before taking a test. This keeps your brain busy and active. The arousal process is important because of its ability to keep the brain sharp and reaction time as fast as possible.

How chewing gum can help you concentrate longer

There is also a relationship between chewing gum and concentration. It’s actually logical to think this way. The sharper and more alert your brain is, the longer your concentration can be sustained. Kate Morgan and some of her colleagues at Cardiff University conducted an important research on the effect of chewing gum on concentration. They used several tasks that required continuous focus and concentration. These tasks were made to accurately determine whether people can spend long periods of time focused on a particular task and actually finish it.

Several other concluded researches showed the positive effect of chewing gum on visual memory tasks. Kate Morgan’s research focused on the effect of chewing gum on audio memory tasks. She concluded that “while chewing gum has been proven to benefit some aspects of cognition, it was important to focus on the effect the action has in relation to audio tasks that involved short-term memory recall and improved concentration in the final stages of the task.”

The research studied 38 people who were divided into two different groups. One group with gum and the other without. Each group listened to a 30-minute audio that involved memorizing numbers from 1 to 9, each number was scattered randomly. Success in this exercise was based on the ability to remember the correct order of odd-even-odd numbers in the shortest time. Before taking the test, details of the participants were taken which includes the mood they were in before taking the test.

In the result of the test, the group without the gum did substantially better at the start of the test but that didn’t last long as they were overtaken by the group with the gum. This research proves that chewing gum helps you concentrate longer and gives you the cognitive ability to be focused on tasks that require absolute focus over time.

How chewing gum can improve alertness

You cannot downplay the importance of alertness in everyday life. In everything we do, at every point in time, being alert can be the difference between succeeding at a task and failing. Chewing gum has proven overtime to have positive effects on our subjective alertness. The action increases your alertness during any task.

On the matter of attention, however, opinions vary. Chewing gum only shows to improve your attention when you have been performing the task for a long time. When you begin a task, your attention span might remain shortened while chewing gum but, overtime, Chewing gum increases attentiveness.

After extensive research, chewing gum was reported to increase mental alertness and overall task performance and over time, the effect chewing has on your attention and reaction time is stunning.

The mental boost chewing gum gives you is uncanny. Reseach was carried out in 2013 involving 100 people from different places. They were made to undergo a test to determine the effect of chewing gum on our mental alertness and what mental boost it gives to people just before they take a test. The test was designed to accurately measure the capacity of alertness under different circumstances. The participants were divided into two groups, the first group were given healthy gum just before the test and the other were asked to chew gum while they took the test.

The result of this endeavor showed promising results. The difference in mental alertness between the two groups was significant. The reaction time recorded in the first group was significantly smaller compared to the reaction time of the second group.

Does chewing gum increase blood flow to the Brain

During the process of chewing gum, heartbeat increases and this in turn enhances adequate blood flow to important organs in the body, including the brain. Recent studies on blood flow to the brain during gum chewing confirms that this action increases blood flow to the brain by 25-40%. This means, the brain is supplied with sufficient amounts of oxygen needed for improved function.

These enhanced functions include; improved memory and general brain function. With sufficient pumping of blood to the brain, chewing gum can actually improve memory. Your brain performs better with sufficient oxygen, and that comes with oxygenated blood.

Chewing gum while Studying

I know this is probably the next question on your mind. Should you chew gum while you study? Will chewing gum help my understanding or retention? A study was conducted on 224 students from St Lawrence University. They were divided into three groups. The first group was made to chew gum before the test and while taking the test. The second group was asked to chew gum just before taking the test and not during. The third group was asked not to take gum at all. The result showed that in the first group, chewing gum helped the students recall certain things they had studied more than the third group. In the second group, the students were more alert and focused on the test and their ability to recall was also better than the third group.

This study further proved that Chewing gum helps during recall and memory tasks, and also causes an increase in arousal. Chewing gum helps wake you up. Research has also shown that chewing gum increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and your cerebral blood flow.”

Research suggests it is better to chew gum than chew on a snack. Because of the nature of its constituent materials, chewing gum actually enhances blood flow to the Brain so much more than an unhealthy snack. In addition, having a snack while studying proved to be very distracting, students experienced better results when they had a piece of gum while studying than a snack. Their ability to remain focused on the task at hand was significantly better with the gum than the snack, not to mention the retentive capacity that is possible with chewing gum while studying. As we have earlier stated, this is possible due to the increased blood flow to the Brain during mastication.

What is the Best Gum to chew?

There have been several studies about gum show they are made. In fact, some researchers have tried to ascertain the constituents of different brands to try and come up with a brand that is healthy for humans. For dietary reasons, there are several components of gum that you should avoid at all cost when shopping for gum. They include;

  • Butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Artificial colors which are carcinogenic in nature.

The recommended gum includes any gum with xylitol as its chief component as opposed to regular sugar packed gum.

Xylitol prevents bacteria from thriving in your mouth. That is the main reason most Dentists or health practitioners recommend it.

Here is a list of brands that contain Xylitol in them;

  • Spry
  • Orbit sugar-free gum
  • Epic Dental
  • Trident
  • Lotte
  • Miradent
  • Confadent

Recommended gums

  • Glee Gum; this is made without any artificial colors or sweeteners like Aspartame.
  • Neuro Gum; this product is made to calm and energize you with the natural materials in gum.
  • Tree Hugger Bubble Gum; an amazing choice for children. It comes with all sorts of fun flavors and all of its nutrients are natural and delicious. It contains gum base and is free from artificial colors. It is sweetened by cane sugar and glucose.
  • Xyloburst; this is recommended because it contains healthy replacements including xylitol.
  • Pur Gum; a suitable choice to avoid various food allergies because it doesn’t contain nuts, soy, dairy, and gluten. It is also sweetened with Xylitol.
  • Peelu; this gum gets its sweetness from isomalts, stevia and xylitol. It also contains several antibacterials so you don’t have to worry about oral hygiene.
  • Spry; sweetened with Xylitol and gets its flavors from natural oils. It also contains antibacterials.
  • Chewsy; this brand is 100% plant based and nature friendly as it is biodegradable. It is sweetened with xylitol too.
  • Project 7; this brand is free from artificial colors or artificial sweeteners that are harmful to your body. It contains gum base and it’s sweetened with xylitol and stevia.
  • Xylichew; it is sweetened with Xylitol and it helps prevent erosion of the enamel. Its key ingredients are vegetable glycerin, gum arabic, sunflower lecithin and carnauba wax. The product is free from unhealthy preservatives.
  • Simply gum; 100% natural and organic brand with natural flavors. Some of its key ingredients include chicle, dried cane juice, vegetable glycerin, sunflower lecithin, rice flour.
  • Chicza Organic Rainforest Gum; this brand is made with natural flavors and major ingredients including evaporated cane juice, chicle, glucose, agave syrup.

Who would’ve thought that something as flimsy as chewing gum can be such an amazing activity that can even affect certain cognitive activities and influence your performance?

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