The study published in the journal Appetite by Erbay et al. said that chewing gum may help relieve symptoms of those suffering from mild and moderate depression like gastrointestinal disturbances, but will not necessarily improve their mood.
Reducing gastrointestinal symptoms of depression
To reach these conclusions, the researchers divided 30 patients suffering from depression into a gum chewing group and a non-gum chewing group. Both groups also took the antidepressant Sertraline for the six week trial period.
“Those patients who were administrated chewing gum responded better to the treatment than patients who took medication only,” said the study, led by scientists at Ataturk University in Turkey.
“The most beneficial effect of chewing gum was observed on the gastrointestinal symptoms, e.g. loss of appetite, and flatulence among others.”
“These results indicate that chewing gum may not be directly effective on depressed mood; however, it may reduce the symptoms originating from depression.”
Using a generic gum
The chewing gum used in the study was described as a “generic brand that can be found in any store”. The gum was flavorless, sugar-free and had no nutritional value, such as fat, carbohydrates or protein.
Participants in the gum-chewing cohort, chewed 11 pieces of gum on four consecutive days per week for six weeks
Although the researchers found improvements in gastrointestinal disturbances for gum chewers, their depressed mood, sleep disturbances, self-esteem and sexual problems were not improved.
Why does it help?
Erbay et al. said gum chewing was more effective for improving somatic symptoms that accompany depression, particularly loss of appetite. They said that this may explained by the modulatory activity of chewing on the gastrointestinal tract.
The finding goes contrary to earlier studies that suggest chewing gum acts as an appetite suppressant that is useful for weight loss.
The researchers of the present paper have called on larger studies combined with Position Emission Tomography (PET- 3D images of body processes) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (brain scans) to better understand the mechanism associated with gum chewing.
Gum and mood
A series of articles funded by Wrigley and published last year said that chewing gum may improve measures of stress and lead to a more positive mood.
A 2009 study by Scholey et al. also found that gum improved alertness and reduced states and stress.
That study said: “The mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown but may involve improved cerebral blood flow and/or effects secondary to performance improvement during gum chewing.”
Appetite, Vo. 65, 1 June 2013, pps 31–34
‘Chewing gum may be an effective complementary therapy in patients with mild to moderate depression’
Authors: Furkan Muhammed Erbay, Nazan Aydın, Tülay Satı-Kırkan