The study, whereby a researcher based at the University of Rhode Island (URI), evaluated the effects of chewing sugar-free gum on weight management, was supported by a $25,000 research award from the Wrigley Science Institute and reported to the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in the US this week.
According to Kathleen Melanson, associate professor of nutrition and food sciences at URI, nerves in the muscles of the jaw are stimulated by the motion of chewing and send signals to the appetite section of the brain that is linked to satiety, which may explain why the act of chewing might help to reduce hunger.
The study's results show that when the study subjects chewed gum for a total of one hour in the morning (three 20-minute gum-chewing sessions), they consumed 67 fewer calories at lunch and did not compensate by eating more later in the day.
The nutritionist also reported that the male participants also reported feeling significantly less hungry after chewing gum.
According to Melanson, when her subjects chewed gum before and after eating, they expended about five per cent more energy than when they did not chew gum. In addition, she reported that her subjects reported feeling more energetic after chewing gum.
"This was a short term study, so the next step is to do a longer study and to use subjects who need to lose weight," she reported. "But based on these initial results, one could hypothesize that gum chewing may be a useful adjunct to a weight management programme."
However, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently concluded that, on the basis of the data available, causality could not be established for the consumption of sugar-free chewing gum and the maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight.
Melanson explained the study involved 35 male and female volunteers who made two visits to the URI Energy Metabolism Lab after having fasted over night.
During one visit, continued Melanson, they chewed gum for 20 minutes before consuming a breakfast shake and twice more during the three hours before lunch.
She said that, during both visits, participants remained as still as possible as measurements were conducted of their resting metabolism rates and blood glucose levels at regular intervals before and after breakfast and lunch.
They also conducted periodic self-assessments of their feelings of hunger, energy and other factors during both visits, reported Melanson.