Chewing gum may help to make people smarter by improving memory and brain performance, research suggests. In tests, scientists found the ability to recall remembered words improved by 42% among people who chewed gum. The scientists from the University of Northumbria, in Newcastle upon Tyne, are working on two theories.
One is that chewing raises the heart beat, which causes more oxygen and nutrients to be pumped into the brain. The other is that it triggers the production of insulin, which stimulates a part of the brain involved in memory. Dr Andrew Scholey, who carried out the study, said: "When you chew, the body releases insulin, which is probably a conditioned response that occurs in anticipation of a meal.
Three groups of 31 volunteers took part in the study and were divided into non, real and "sham" chewers . One group chewed gum, a second group sat in a quiet room without chewing, while a third "sham" group was asked to pretend to chew with nothing in their mouths. Prior to undergoing the 25-minute test, the two chewing groups spent three minutes working their real or imaginary gum around their mouths.
The tests comprised questions relating to short-term memory, such as recalling words and pictures, and so-called working memory, for example the ability to retain a person's telephone number. He said the heart rate of the real chewers after the tests was three beats per minute faster than the non-chewers, and 1.5 beats per minute faster than the "sham" chewers. The "sham" group generally performed better than the "quiet room" group. Dr Scholey said working memory was also significantly improved by chewing, but not to the same extent as long-term memory.