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Need a Mental Boost? Pop a Stick of Chewing Gum

Wrigleys Extra Dessert DelightsGot an important sales meeting coming up? An annual review session with the boss? A presentation that can make or break your entire company? You need your brain to be firing on all cylinders.

Forgot the shot of espresso; pop a stick of chewing gum instead.

According to a recent study, gum makes your brain work better–for a short period of time, anyway. As reported by Wired, people who had a good chew for about five minutes saw a marked increase in cognitive abilities, with no side effects except looking goofy. Here’s an excerpt:

The experiment went like this: 159 students were given a battery of demanding cognitive tasks, such as repeating random numbers backward and solving difficult logic puzzles. Half of the subjects chewed gum (sugar-free and sugar-added) while the other half were given nothing. Here’s where things get peculiar: Those randomly assigned to the gum-chewing condition significantly outperformed those in the control condition on five out of six tests. (The one exception was verbal fluency, in which subjects were asked to name as many words as possible from a given category, such as “animals.”) The sugar content of the gum had no effect on test performance.

Why the mental boost? Scientists still don’t know, though the educated guess is that the act of chewing effectively wakes you up.

Alas, the effects were shown to last only 15-20 minutes, so you’ll have to time your chew accordingly.

What’s more, keep in mind that these results were based on specific cognitive tasks, not running a better PowerPoint presentation. That said, it stands to reason that if you’re temporarily blessed with better recall, logistic reasoning, and the like, you’ll fare better during any important business situation.

And, needless to say, a minty gum will improve your breath. Don’t like mint? I’m a huge fan of Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights, especially the Apple Pie variety. It tastes so much like apple pie, you’ll think Willy Wonka was behind it.

By the way, gum has also been shown to be a good remedy for heartburn, something to consider if you’re doing something important post-lunch.

After chewing this over for a while, hit the comments and tell me your thoughts on gum. Secret weapon for brains, or much a-chew about nothing? (Sorry, I had to.)

  • http://www.avshost.com Terry Pearson

    This is probably partially why eating a snack in general can help you think better in the middle of the workday. Chewing on something makes us more alert.

    I wonder if there could be a follow up study to see how similar the results would be if a person ate a granola bar or some chocolate instead of chewing gum?

    • Rick Broida

      Excellent point. Why just gum? In fact, if you do nothing more than make a chewing motion with your jaw, does that accomplish the same thing?