Specifically, the gum-chewers ate fewer sweet snacks than when not chewing on gum.
"Overall, this research demonstrates the potential role chewing gum can play in appetite control, reduction of snack cravings and weight management," said lead researcher, Dr. Paula J Geiselman, chief of women's health and eating behaviour and smoking cessation at the US-based Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
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 this latest US study, supported by a grant from gum behemoth Wrigley, through its Wrigley Science Institute, could be a further weapon in the gum makers' armoury.
While the findings of the study, presented this weekend at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans, suggest chewing gum can temper snack consumption, the researchers noted that consumers "still reached for a variety of snacks provided".
However, the researchers add that the decrease in overall snack intake was "significant" at 40 calories, with sweet snack intake falling by 60 calories.
"The study conducted by Dr. Geiselman is the first to examine the macronutrient composition of afternoon snack food choices made by men and women after chewing [Wrigley's] Extra sugar-free gum," said the scientists.
The participants, 115 men and women, between the ages of 18 and 54, were all regular gum chewers. They came to the laboratory twice - once for the "gum condition" and the other occasion for the "no gum condition".
During each visit, subjects were given sandwiches for lunch, "nutrient rich enough to account for one fourth of their recommended daily caloric intake."
The study participants remained in the laboratory. and for the next three hours they either chewed sugar-free gum for 15 minutes hourly for three hours or did not chew gum.
Participants filled out questionnaires rating their self-perceived levels of hunger, cravings for snacks and energy levels.
Three hours after lunch, the study participants were offered a variety of snacks including high sugar foods and high complex carbohydrate foods that contained either high or low fat.
Subjects could eat as much as they wanted of any or all snack food categories.
"When they chewed gum, on average, they reported significantly decreased feelings of hunger and cravings for something sweet," report the researchers.
Further, they state that the gum chewers felt they maintained energy levels throughout the afternoon and also felt significantly less drowsy "at hours two and three" before the afternoon snack.
The saturated UK gum market
The chewing gum market in the UK has remained relatively stagnant for the last few years. Data from Mintel reveals the retail value sales of chewing gum and mints rose slightly from £547m (€616m) in 2007 to £553m (€623m) in 2008. Overall just a small movement from the £524m (€590m) recorded in 2002.
And in light of a tougher economic climate, the market trackers anticipate a small contraction in the market in 2009, to £550m (€619m).