Chewing Gum Linked With Lower Stress
Stress can have both psychological and physical effects, including depression and higher blood pressure. A recent study used salivary markers to measure stress levels and found that chewing gum for more than 10 minutes may help reduce stress.
Participants in the study included 14 men who performed arithmetic calculations for 30 minutes in order to build up stress. Following that time, they chewed gum for 5, 10, 15 minutes or did not chew gun at all. Each participant was assigned each chewing conditions, each one on a different day.
The researchers collected salvia samples before and 25 minutes after completing the arithmetic calculations, regardless of the length of gum chewing. They also measured cortisol levels, a marker of stress.
No difference in salivary alpha-amylase activity was seen, however there was a greater decrease in cortisol levels in the 15-minute group than in the 5-minute group. The decrease in cortisol levels was also significantly greater at 10 and 15 minutes of chewing gum compared to no gum chewing.
Previous studies have found no connection between gum chewing and cortisol levels. The researchers believe this is due to the fact that those studies measured cortisol in the blood instead of saliva, and blood tests can raise stress.
Researchers from the Tokyo Dental College conducted the study. It was published in the January 2014 issue of Journal of Prosthodontic Research.
This study is not the first to highlight the cognitive benefits of chewing gum. For instance, a study by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit in England found that the act of chewing gum improves short and long term memory by as much as 35%.
Chewing gum has also been associated with promotion of weight loss, improved digestion, fewer cavities, and better concentration. When choosing a type of gum make sure it is sugar free, preservative free, and free of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, as the gum in this study was.