Andrew Scholey, professor of behavioural and brain sciences at Swinburne university in Melbourne, and his team, found chewing gum was associated with higher alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.
Competing in saturated US and European markets has thrust chewing gum makers into intensive R&D efforts to create innovative market-grabbing products. In recent years the sugar-free gum trend has rescued flat sales for the gum industry, and significantly, a major cash-generating trend are today's functional foods, which provide consumers with health-boosting benefits.
And this latest study from Australia, carried out in conjunction with gum firm Wrigley, could be a further weapon in the confectioners' armoury.
Presented last weekend at Rissho University in Tokyo, Japan at the 10th International Congress of Behavioural Medicine, the 40-person study investigated how chewing gum affected the score of the participants - average age of 22 - on the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS). The DISS is a multi-tasking platform which, according to the researchers, "reliably induces stress and also includes performance measures, while chewing and not chewing gum."
Anxiety, alertness and stress levels were measured before and after participants completed the DISS.
A four-pronged outcome, the scientists found that when chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety. "Gum chewers showed a reduction in anxiety as compared to non-gum chewers by nearly 17 per cent during mild stress and nearly 10 per cent in moderate stress," they write.
Secondly, the chewing of gum appeared to raise alertness in participants. "Gum chewers showed improvement in alertness over non-gum chewers by nearly 19 per cent during mild stress and 8 per cent in moderate stress," add the researchers.
Thirdly, levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 per cent during mild stress and nearly 12 per cent in moderate stress. In other words, chewing gum helped to cut stress levels.
Finally, according to the researchers' findings, chewing gum resulted in a "significant improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities."
While both gum-chewers and non-chewers showed improvement from their baseline scores, chewing gum "improved mean performance scores over non gum chewers by 67 per cent during moderate stress and 109 per cent in mild stress."
Seeking to explore, and unlock, the benefits of chewing gum, Wrigley in 2006 launched the multi-million dollar Wrigley Science Institute. The institute consists of an international advisory panel of scientists and research experts who are chewing gum.
According to Wrigley, the institute's current work is focused on four key scientific areas: how gum can: help reduce situational stress; help manage weight; help increase focus, alertness and concentration; and improve oral health.