To Chew or Not to Chew

To Chew or Not to Chew

Chewing gum sales reach over $4 billion in the U.S., and the number is only estimated to increase. But why do so many people chew gum? Although it may be viewed as merely a type of candy, it carries a plethora of positive impacts. Chewing gum has been known to freshen breath, clean teeth, help digestion, relieve stress, increase focus, improve mood, and much more. However, the quality of gum that more and more studies are being done on is its effect on learning, studying, and attention. According to a study done by the National Library of Medicine, about 79.6% of students reported chewing gum, specifically during school. Whether they know is or not, these students may be improving their performance and grades through this simple, insignificant habit.

Reaching the optimal level of physiological arousal, when certain factors such as respiration and blood pressure escalate, is difficult for many students, especially during classes early in the morning. Pointing towards a solution, many studies have shown that chewing gum increases physiological arousal, leading to improved memory, performance, and attentiveness. These performance-related advantages of chewing gum are results of the increased blood flow from chewing and the availability of some flavor.

The physical movement of one’s jaw helps to awaken the mind and body, providing the students consuming the gum with a greater supply of energy to spend on observing information. This boost in alertness also leads to a subconscious motivation to finish the task at hand, which, often, in this case, is homework.

Also, the flavor of the gum itself can wake up the students; several studies have shown that the mint flavor is most effective in decreasing levels of tiredness. Although it was originally hypothesized that the sugar in the gum spikes energy, many tests prove that sugar-free gum tends to have the same impacts, leading to the conclusion that it is the mere presence of a flavor that has these effects.

However, like many things, chewing gum has its downsides. Although the physical movement of the jaw does awaken the mind and body, this only lasts for about 30-40 minutes, until the movement becomes too familiar. Likewise, once the flavor of the gum is exhausted, its energy spiking qualities are lost, possibly leaving the gum with no worth. So, it is up to the student to decide if these cons of chewing gum override its positive impacts, although the trends suggest that this is generally not the case.