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Could chewing gum boost performance, reduce stress?

By Stephen Daniells , 12-Oct-2012
Last updated on 12-Oct-2012 at 19:05 GMT

Chewing gum may improve measures of stress and lead to a more positive mood, suggests findings from a series of articles funded by the Wrigley Science Institute.

Scientists from Cardiff University in Wales report that chewing gum was also linked to reduced stress in university students, with perceived stress linked to the amount of gum chewed.

A third paper found that chewing gum was associated with increases in levels of cortisol in the volunteers, with the researchers arguing that this reflects heightened arousal.

All three papers are published in the journal Appetite.

“The magnitude of the gum effect was about a 10% change,” wrote Andrew Smith and his co-workers. “Such an effect would not totally remove stress at work but would lead to a meaningful reduction in the problem.”

Study details

For the first study, the Cariff-based scientists recruited 101 people from the university staff and analyzed the effects of chewing on measures of occupational stress. Results showed that chewing gum “reduced stress (both at work and outside work), reduced fatigue, reduced anxiety and depression and led to a more positive mood. Chewing gum was also associated with perceptions of better performance (both at work and outside)”.

A study with 72 university students involved gum chewing or no gum chewing for two weeks. The data indicated that the students’ perception of their own stress levels decreased as the amount of gum chewing increased.

In addition, the students’ ability to getting enough academic work done increased with gum chewing.

“The present results suggest that gum chewing may be a cost-effective and easily implemented method of reducing stress and getting more work done,” they wrote. “The literature [… indicates…] that there are a number of plausible mechanisms ranging from peripheral nerve effects through to CNS effects (at the structural and chemical level) that could provide a basis for the effects described here.”

The third study, led by Gemma Gray from Coventry University, analyzed the effects of chewing gum on cortisol levels, the hormone linked to stress. Forty participants completed a Trier Social Stress Task either chewing or not chewing gum. The test was found to elevate cortisol and stress levels. Interestingly, gum chewing was associated with a reduction in the perception of stress, but an elevation in cortisol levels.

“The contrasting effects of chewing gum on physiological and subjective measures are curious and suggest that cortisol changes may not always reflect perceived stress,” they wrote.

Sources: Appetite
Volume 58, Issue 3, Pages 1083–1086, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.02.052
“Chewing gum, occupational stress, work performance and wellbeing. An intervention study”
Authors: A.P. Smith, K. Chaplin, E. Wadsworth

Appetite
Volume 58, Issue 2, Pages 554–558, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.11.013
“The contrasting physiological and subjective effects of chewing gum on social stress”
Authors: G. Gray, C. Miles, N. Wilson, R. Jenks, M. Cox, A.J. Johnson

Appetite
Volume 58, Issue 3, Pages 1037–1040, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.02.054
“Effects of chewing gum on the stress and work of university students”
Authors: A.P. Smith, M. Woods

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