While sitting on my computer pondering what to write my next post about, I realized something: my gum lost its flavor. I had become so focused on writing my last post that I chewed away all the delicious mintiness. I quickly popped in a new piece. Back to work…It was then that I remembered an article I had read a while back about the benefits of chewing gum and decided it would be a great discussion to post about. I did some looking around, and boy is there tons of research done on chewing gum. So much so, I think you would all benefit from learning a bit about that chewy stuff many of you constantly crave.
Humans have been chewing on gum like substances for thousands of years. In 2007, students from the University of Derby uncovered 5,000-year-old chewing gum. Made from birch bark tar, the gum was believed to have antiseptic properties along with other medicinal benefits. The Ancient Greece used resin of the mastic tree to make mastic gum, which woman used to clean their teeth and enjoy its sweetness. North American Indians were known to chew on the sap of spruce trees. The Maine Pure Spruce Gum was the first commercial chewing gum, developed by John B Curtis in 1848 after he and other New England settlers picked up the practice from the American Indians. What we know today as chewing gum wasn’t developed until 1869, when Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (a veteran of the Alamo) discussed his idea of chicle (a rubber substitute) with Thomas Adams. Adams used chicle in production of his failed toy and rain boots companies, but applied flavoring thanks to the idea Santa Anna. Soon after, companies like Black Jack and Chiclets took over the market, using the formula we are most familiar with today in producing their gum: instead of chicle they use styrene-butadiene rubber based synthetic rubber. Years after the gum craze had hit America, scientific observations and experiments began to see what, if any, benefits this delicious treat has.
A study published in January 2015 in PLoS ONE, found that gum traps harmful bacteria that can cause dental cavities. When you spit it out, that bacteria is removed. Biomedical engineering students chewed gum in lengths varying from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. They spit the gum in sterile water afterwards and analyzed the samples. The students found that the longer the piece of gum is chewed, the more species from the mouth it captures. They noted however, that the crucial time for picking up these species was in the first 30 seconds, and after that less and less species were picked up as time went on. But, this concept is limited to sugarless gum. Sugar-sweetened gum actual makes oral bacteria more prevolant. When these microbes ferment sugars, the biofilm on your teeth grows more acidic, which leads to cavities. The researchers are hoping their findings leads to advances in the gum industry towards producing oral-benefiting gums.
Another study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that chewing gum after giving birth by C-section appears to help new mothers recover faster. The study was done by taking 200 pregnant woman and separating them into two groups: 93 women would chew gum for 15 minutes every two hours while the other 107 would follow traditional treatment (no clear liquids until a patient passes gas, and no regular diet until the first bowel movement). The gum was found to stimulate bowel function sooner, allowing for shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs. Chewing gum stimulates saliva which is calming for your stomach and it also is believed to prepare your bowels for food, as it signals food is on the way. By not actually eating food, the digestive movements are stimulated without being forced to actually do work.
A widely held belief is that chewing gum helps with mental stimulation, memory, and test scores. While many studies have been done on this topic, there have been mixed findings. Many people refer to a 2011 study at St. Lawrence University that found that gum is an effective booster of mental performance. However, most people don’t realize the study found that only the first 20 minutes of gum chewing is helpful, and even those 20 minutes are not as helpful as widely believed. Research conducted at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, did find substantial results though. The third of students who chewed gum while studying performed better on a 20-minute memory tests compared with a third of the students who did chewing motions and a third of students who chewed nothing. They noted that chewing gums raises the heartbeat by 3bpm, increasing blood flow in the cerebral area. The memory association between the flavor and scent of the gum and previously studied concepts are believed to help recall learned material.
Personally, I’ve always found chewing gum to be helpful when studying. To me it’s very stress relieving and puts you in a constant rhythm. Plus it tastes good, and it apparently helps your teeth. After this post, its time for another piece.