Studies have suggested that something about chewing gum reduces stress, improves alertness and relieves anxiety. But most of this research has been found in a laboratory setting. Now, the first study in people also supports the idea that chewing gum boosts academic performance.
The study was conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and was sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute. The study included 108 students, ages 13 to 16, who were assigned to either chew sugar-free gum during math class, while doing math homework and during math tests or to refrain from gum-chewing. After 14 weeks, the students' took a math test and their grades were assessed.
Those who chewed gum had a 3% increase in standardized math test scores and had final math grades that were significantly better than the other students. Teachers observed that those who chewed gum seemed to require fewer breaks, sustain attention longer and remain quieter.
Just how chomping gum helps kids crunch numbers is not quite clear.
"We did not explore the mechanism behind this relationship. However, there is research demonstrating an increase in blood flow in the brain during chewing," the lead author of the study, Dr. Craig Johnston of Baylor college of medicine, said in an e-mail.
The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of Experimental Biology 2009 today in New Orleans.
-- Shari Roan
Photo: Aina Cambridge of Lakewood in a 2003 chewing gum contest.