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Teenage brain power boosted by chewing gum: Wrigley study

By Sarah Hills , 24-Apr-2009
Last updated the 30-Apr-2009 at 12:42 GMT

Chewing gum could have a positive affect on the academic performance of teenagers, according to new research funded by the Wrigley Science Institute (WSI).

The study examined whether chewing Wrigley sugar-free gum could lead to better academic performance in a "real life" classroom setting.

 

The researchers found that students who chewed gum showed an increase in standardized math test scores and their final grades were better compared to those who didn't chew gum.

 

The authors concluded: “These results show chewing gum may be a cost-effective and easily implemented method to increase student performance.”

 

The study, led by Dr Craig Johnston from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, is the latest in a series of research projects backed by the WSI in order to learn more about the potential health and wellness benefits of chewing gum. This focuses on four areas: focus, alertness and concentration; situational stress; weight management and appetite; and oral health.

 

The findings were presented at the American Society of Nutrition’s Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2009. FoodNavigator.com has not seen the full data.

 

Executive director of the WSI, Dr Gil Leveille, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “Dr Johnston’s study found that chewing gum was associated with improved academic performance, but it did not explore the mechanism behind this relationship.

 

“However, there is research demonstrating an increase in blood flow in the brain during chewing and a recent study supported by the Wrigley Science Institute showed that chewing gum reduces stress and improves alertness; these effects of chewing gum might well contribute to enhanced class performance.

 

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that supports the benefits of chewing gum for various cognitive performances, such as focus and concentration.”

 

The objective

 

The aim of the research was to determine the effect of gum chewing on standardized test scores and math class grades of eighth grade students.

 

Four math classes (108 students in total) were randomized into two groups – the gum chewing condition, which had Wrigley’s sugar-free gum to chew during class, during homework and during test taking situations – and the control condition with no gum.

 

The gum chewing students reported chewing at least one stick of gum 86 percent of the time they were in math class and 36 percent of the time they were doing homework.

 

The researchers said that an increase in the math test scores was found for all students,

 

However, students who chewed gum had a significantly greater increase in their standardized math test scores after 14 weeks of chewing, compared to those who did not chew gum.

 

Chewing gum was associated with a three percent increase in standardized math test scores, which was described as “a small but statistically significant change”.

 

In both groups, the math class grades, which represent their performance on tests, class work and homework throughout the entire semester, declined over time.

 

However, the math grades for students chewing gum declined less in comparison to student who did not.

 

The researchers said: “Together, these findings can be meaningful when related to small steps that can lead to better academic performance.”

 

Wrigley said that data presented at the 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine last year showed that chewing gum can help reduce stress, improve alertness and relieve anxiety in response to a stressor.

 

Source: ASN Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2009, ‘Late breaking abstract’ New Orleans, LA, April 2009.
“Gum chewing affects academic performance in adolescents”
Authors: Johnston C A, Tyler C, Stansberry SA, Palcic JL, Foreyt JP

 

 

 

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