Can Gum Chewing Help You Learn?
Does that mean you can chew your way to an “A”?
In a study at the University of Northumbria, psychologists asked three groups of volunteers to memorize lists of words, pictures, and telephone numbers. While studying the lists, people in one group chewed gum, people in another did not, and members of the third group pretended to chew gum. The 75 volunteers were then tested to see how much information they could recall. The researchers found that the gum chewers remembered 35 percent more than volunteers in the other two groups. (Members of the group who pretended to chew didn’t remember more, but they probably felt silly.)
Another recent study confirms that chewing gum might well be brain food. Kenneth Allen, a professor at the New York University School of Dentistry, divided 56 student volunteers into groups of gum chewers and nonchewers, and lectured to the two groups for three days. Later, when the volunteers took a written test, the gum chewers scored a full grade higher.
Scientists are at a loss to explain the phenomenon. Some of them believe that the simple act of chewing increases heart rate and blood flow, sending more oxygen to the brain. Increased oxygen is known to improve brain function.
Another theory is that the hormone insulin is responsible for the improvement in memory. Insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas, helps the body’s cells absorb glucose (blood sugar)–the body’s main fuel. Andrew Scholey, the psychologist who conducted the University of Northumbria study, explained it this way: “When you chew, the body releases insulin. We know the brain contains receptors for insulin. Although their function isn’t well known, we know the receptors are fairly densely packed in a part of the brain that is crucial for memory.”
Double the Pleasure?
Chewing gum may have another surprising health benefit–it can help prevent cavities. Normally, bacteria in the mouth produce acid that can weaken the enamel on teeth. Chewing makes the mouth produce more saliva, which washes away harmful bacteria.
Before you rush off to stuff your mouth with gum, make sure it’s sugarless gum. Otherwise, the wad of sugar in your mouth will provide more food for those same acid-producing bacteria.
Thanks for the Memories
So the next time you reach for a stick of gum, keep in mind that there may be a health benefit to all that chomping. And if you can’t remember that, read this article again. This time, though, chew some gum!
Americans spend half a billion dollars on bubble gum every year.
Singapore OKs Chewing Gum–Sort Of
Chewing gum is now legal in Singapore. Twelve years ago, this small country in Southeast Asia banned the sale and use of chewing gum. Why? Chewed gum is eventually spit out–and used wads were tossed in the streets or stuck beneath public seats. To put an end to that practice, Singapore outlawed all chewing gum. The penalty for bringing gum into the country was a year in jail and a $5,500 fine.
In May 2004, after intense lobbying by American gum companies, officials in Singapore agreed to allow limited gum sales. Here’s the catch: Gum can be sold only in drugstores and only for medical reasons, such as to fight cavities or stop smoking. Pharmacists must keep a record of everyone who buys gum. It’s unclear whether blowing bubbles is now legal too.