Saturday, 16 June 2012
Chewing gum expands the mind
Maybe walking and chewing gum at the same time shouldn't be so tough after all. A joint study carried out by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit in England has found that the act of chewing gum improves short- and long-term memory by as much as 35 percent.
Spearmint, cinnamon or bubble-gum flavor -- it doesn't matter. The key to better brain power is the repetitive chewing motion, according to the study, which was presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Blackpool.
"The results were extremely clear; specifically we found that chewing gum targeted memory," says Andrew Scholey, a scientist with the university's human cognitive-neuroscience unit who carried out the study. "People recalled more words and performed better in tests on working memory."
Why does chewing gum stimulate one's memory? Scientists don't know for sure, but they are working on two theories. One is that the gentle exercise of chewing raises a person's heart rate, which increases the flow of oxygen to the brain. Another is that chewing triggers the release of insulin, a natural chemical that stimulates a section of the brain involved in memory.
The results of the study were welcomed by chewing-gum manufacturers worldwide, who said they always had known there were positive benefits to chewing gum. "This is definitely good news," says Christopher J. Perille, senior director of corporate communications for Chicago-based Wrigley, one of the largest gum manufacturers in the world. "We've always known that chewing gum has its benefits. This study just reinforces those benefits."
The average American chews an estimated 300 sticks of gum per year, and children in North America spend about a half-billion dollars on bubble gum every year, according to the National Association of Chewing Gum Manufacturers.