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Gum Chewing Found to
Boost Brainpower, Memory



Excerpt By Jeremy Laurence, Reuters Health

LONDON (Reuters) - The often-maligned act of chewing gum could in fact make us smarter, according to British research.

A joint study carried out by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit, Reading, has found that chewing gum has a positive effect on thinking, memory and other cognitive tasks.

"The results were extremely clear and specifically we found that chewing gum targeted memory," Andrew Scholey of the university's Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit said. "People recalled more words and performed better in tests on working memory."

Peppermint gum, menthol or spearmint--it makes no difference. The key is the repetitive chewing motion.

Scholey, who was to present his findings to a symposium at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Blackpool Wednesday, said the improved performance in a range of memory tests could be attributed to an increase in heart rate coupled with a surge in insulin to the brain.

The experiments involved 75 people split into groups of non-chewers, real chewers and "sham" chewers.

Prior to undergoing the 25-minute test, the two chewing groups spent 3 minutes working their real or imaginary gum around their mouths.

Scholey said the tests included questions relating to short-term memory, such as recalling words and pictures, and so-called working memory, for example the ability to retain a person's telephone number. He said the heart rate of the real chewers after the tests was three beats per minute faster than the non-chewers, and 1.5 beats per minute faster than the sham chewers.

"What we think is that the mild increase in heart rate may improve the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain, enough to improve cognitive function," he told Reuters.

Scholey added the other possibility was that chewing gum induced a surge of insulin due to the mouth watering in anticipation of a meal.

"It is known that there are insulin receptors in areas of the brain which are important for learning and memory," he said.


Reference Source 89

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