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The Cognitive Benefits of Chewing Gum

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There are countless health tips relating to increasing focus, from meditation to medication to exercise to getting sufficient sleep. All of these tips are helpful to some, if not all, people who struggle to focus during long work sessions, study routines, or simply at a time when the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. An overlooked helper in the fight for focus is sugar-free chewing gum, as a lot of evidence points to its effectiveness in enhancing memory, reducing stress, improving alertness, and improving cognitive performance.

The benefits of sugar-free gum have long been established for dental care. The American Dental Association says that while chewing sugar-free gum is no substitute for brushing your teeth, those gums sweetened by non-cavity-causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol, or mannitol can help prevent tooth decay. That said, it is less apparent to many consumers that chewing gum has benefits in both the areas of stress relief and sustained focus. A 2015 study found that “positive attributes of the effects of chewing on attention, especially sustained attention, were shown in over half of the reports. These effects also appeared with improvements in mood and stress relief and were influenced by time-on-task effects. Further studies are needed, but chewing could be useful for modifying cognitive function.”

In this 2009 study, researchers conclude that “the data here suggest that chewing gum has beneficial effects on a number of measures during two intensities of laboratory stress. Compared with the no chewing condition, gum chewing was associated with significantly higher alertness coupled with reduced subjective stress and state anxiety.”

Chewing gum has long been a popular habit for many people, but recent research has shown that it may have more benefits than just freshening breath. Studies have found that chewing gum can actually improve short-term memory and cognitive processes associated with learning.

One study found that participants who chewed gum during a memory test performed significantly better than those who did not. The act of chewing gum is believed to increase blood flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive function and improve memory retention. In addition to improving memory, chewing gum has also been found to reduce stress and anxiety. 

However, it’s important to note that the cognitive boost provided by chewing gum is only temporary. While it may be helpful in the short term, it won’t necessarily make you more focused in the long run. It’s still important to develop good study habits and engage in other activities that promote long-term cognitive health, such as getting enough sleep and maintaining a balanced diet.

One of the advantages of chewing gum is that it has no negative side effects, especially if you opt for sugar-free gum. This means that it can be a helpful tool during challenging study sessions or when you need to unwind from a task. Chewing gum can provide a small break from intense concentration and help to refresh your mind.

While chewing gum may not be a magic solution for improving cognitive function, it can offer some short-term benefits. It has been shown to enhance short-term memory and reduce stress, making it a useful tool for students and individuals looking to boost their cognitive performance. Just remember that it’s not a substitute for developing good study habits and engaging in other activities that promote long-term cognitive health.

Bill Wirtz is the senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.

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