Does chewing gum help you concentrate?

Chewing gum, a teachers worst nightmare. I know when I was in high school, chewing gum was banned and if you were caught with it, you had to spit it out immediately.

But could chewing it possibly help with activities such as studying, or does it do nothing at all? There have been a number of studies that have looked into what effect, if any, chewing gum has on cognitive function.

This study involved the use of an audio task to test whether chewing gum assisted concentration. The task made use of short term memory and researchers wanted to determine whether chewing gum had any impact on it.

40 individuals were split into 2 groups. One group chewed gum and the other didn’t, whilst they both completed a 30 minute task. They had a list of numbers from 1 to 9 being read out randomly to them and were asked to note down when an odd-even-odd sequence, such as 3-4-9 was mentioned.

It was found that chewing gum did seem to have an effect on reaction times. At the start of the task, participants who didn’t chew gum performed a bit better than those who did. However as time progressed, the students who chewed gum had faster reaction times and their answers were more accurate. The results suggest that chewing gum helps assist concentration on tasks that continue over a long period of time.

This study involved participants performing a number of tasks that required them to concentrate. Some of the participants chewed gum 5 minutes before they carried out the tasks and others during the task. There was also a control group that did not chew any gum.

It was noticed that chewing gum before the tasks were carried out lead to performance advantages but there were no noticeable performance improvements when gum was chewed during the tasks. However, the benefits only lasted for the first 15 to 20 minutes of testing and did not affect all tasks.

The researchers believe that chewing gum during the tasks did not have a significant effect because trying to chew and concentrate at the same time means that resources in the brain have to be shared. Essentially what the study shows is that chewing gum before a task acts as a form of exercise, stimulating the brain, but the stimulation wears off quickly.

This study wanted to investigate whether chewing gum improved mood & mental performance, if it provided benefits to stressed individuals and also if the type of gum and level of anxiety had any impact.

133 volunteers took part in various cognitive tests whilst they chewed either minty or fruity gum, or no gum at all. Half of the volunteers took the tests in noisy conditions (to induce stress) and the other half in a quiet environment. The volunteers heart rates were monitored throughout the testing and they described their mood at the start and end of each test. Saliva samples were also taken so that cortisol levels could be analysed.

It was found that the participants who chewed gum were more alert and had a better mood. Their reaction times were quicker and this became more noticeable as the difficulty of the task increased. Heart rates and cortisol levels were higher when gum was chewed.

This study wanted to test the hypothesis that chewing induces higher cognitive performance. Seventeen healthy adults aged 20 – 34 years took part and were asked to press a button with their right or left thumb, depending on the direction of the middle arrow in a group of 5 arrows that were shown to them on a screen. Sometimes all 5 arrows pointed in the same direction and other times they pointed either left or right.

The test was carried out twice on each participant, where they either chewed nothing or chewed a piece of gum with no odour or flavour. The researchers stated that when gum was chewed, the participants were more alert and had faster reaction times.

This study tested to see if chewing gum affected students scores on maths tests. 108 students took part, some of whom chewed gum for a period of 14 weeks whilst in class and when doing homework, whilst others did not chew any gum. It was found that chewing gum was associated with a 3% increase in overall scores. It is also important to note that the study was funded by the Wrigley Science Institute, a chewing gum manufacturer, and that this slight difference in test scores is extremely small and statistically insignificant.

This study had Grade 3 students either chew or not chew gum during a 16 minute concentration test. The results of the study state that chewing gum had a significant positive effect on concentration.

Finally, this study found that participants who chewed gum felt less sleepy and appeared less tired.

All of these studies seem to suggest that chewing gum does indeed help concentration in one way or another. However the results are contradictory, with some results showing that gum chewing is most effective before a task that requires concentration is carried out and others showing that it is effective during the task.

More large scale studies would need to be carried out to determine just how effective chewing gum is in aiding concentration. For now, I would suggest you try it out yourself and determine which method works best for you!

Conclusion

According to scientific research, it appears that chewing gum can help you concentrate better. You would need to test it out yourself to see how effective it really is. Also, make sure you get enough quality sleep, exercise regularly and have a balanced diet rich in brain boosting foods such as blueberries & oily fish.