Chew On This


Gum is giving scientists plenty to chew on. In a recent study, psychologists at St. Lawrence University found that students who chewed gum five minutes before taking a test did better on it than students who did not.

The small study included 159 students. Half were randomly given gum to chew and the other half were given nothing. The students then completed a variety of difficult cognitive tests and puzzles. The results showed that the subjects with gum significantly outperformed those without it. However, their advantage over the non-chewers lasted only for the first 20 minutes of test taking. So chew wisely, because it appears the effects of gum are short-lived.

The St. Lawrence study adds to a dozen others scientists have carried out over the last ten years testing the relationship between chewing gum and cognitive function. None of the studies have resulted in strong enough evidence to confirm that chewing gum enhances brain function, but many have shown a connection.

In 2002 a study in Japan used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology to observe the brain while a subject was with and without gum. The results showed increased activity in parts of the brain due to higher blood oxygenation from the chomping. A different study performed this year at Coventry University in England showed that subjects who chewed mint gum felt less sleepy and looked less tired, which may indicate that gum can help people be alert.

If you think of chewing gum as just a bad habit, you may want to chomp on a stick of it — and think again.

Halle Berry

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