Same as almost all other sweet confectionery products (candies, cookies, cakes, ice creams, puddings, chocolate bars, sodas…), gums are also famous for their ability to grant sudden release of sugars into our metabolism, which briefly have sometimes a significant impact on our brain functions and mental state. Since this kind of “sugar rush” feeling is one of the most researched topics in the world of food, chewing gums also received much attention from the both public and researchers, but another theory quickly surfaced in which sugar was eliminated from the equation. This theory (supported by scientists) states that the very act of “chewing” changes the way our brain works, which impacts several mental processes and can help us perform better on certain cognitive tasks.
Here are some of the most famous studies that tried to find the cause of increased cognitive functions while using chewing gums:
“Cognitive advantages of chewing gum. Now you see them, now you don't” by Serge Onyper et al. (2011) – This famous study showed significant impact on cognitive functions in over 200 test subjects during the first 15 to 20 minutes after taking chewing gums. The most notable cognitive domains that were affected are the perceptual speed of processing, working memory and episodic memory. These boosts were present only in that initial period, and the overall cognitive levels of the brain could not be elevated with non-stop use of chewing gums. The reasoning for chewing gum effectiveness in the cognitive domain was explained in part by the link between brain activity and many forms of mild physical exercise (in this case, regular movements of the jaw).
“The Effects of Gum Chewing on Math Scores in Adolescents” (2008) by Baylor College of Medicine – Sponsored by gum manufacturer Wm Wrigley Jr Company, this research tried to ascertain whether or not schoolchildren in a single charter school in Houston (Texas) could reap benefits of the cognitive boost after using chewing gums. The test followed 53 students who used chewing gums, and 58 who did not. Results that were critiqued by US overpayment were non-conclusive, showing minimal to no boosts recorded, although Wm Wrigley Jr Company decided to promote this research as a success and proof that their gums can boost school performance of kids.
Chewing gum study of National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) in Japan – Even though this study got some mainstream attention, it's findings of the cognitive changes caused by chewing gums were based on the sample size of just 17 test subjects. The primary claim of this study was that chewing gums can boost alertness by 10%.
“Chewing gum moderates the vigilance decrement” by Kate Morgan et al. (2013) – This research published in British Journal of Psychology tested the memory, concentration, alertness, performance, and mood of subjects who took or did not took chewing gums before the 30-minute test. The study showed that chewing gum can briefly increase concentration, focus and memory.
“Effects of chewing gum on cognitive function, mood, and physiology in stressed and non-stressed volunteers” by A. Smith (2010) – This study found that there are some brief benefits of chewing gum before student tests, but those benefits were limited mostly to the feeling of alertness.
“Gummed-up memory: chewing gum impairs short-term recall” by Kozlov et al. (2012) – This test found no connection between chewing gums and the boost in the cognitive functions of the brain.