Chewing gum can reduce stress (Did that girl in Willy Wonka actually have a point?)

Tell me what your favourite flavour of gum is? I have three myself, mint, strawberry and watermelon. Now tell me how many of you have gotten dirty looks from co-workers, parents, friends, teachers or your boss for chewing a wad of gum because they get annoyed seeing your jaw move up and down and tell you its a disgusting habit and you should stop right now? Well, the next time they say that just say, “I’m stressed out and chewing gum helps me calm down,” and if they still bother you, stick this post in their face and tell them to read it.


By — Gohnarch░░░░ 12:20, 17. Jan. 2009 (CET) (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

This may come as a surprise but people have been chewing gum in one form or another for millennia. According to this article from titled, “Does chewing gum reduce anxiety?” by Caitlin Covington, the ancient Greeks and Mayans used to chew on tree resin (I don’t think that would have tasted very good), but they didn’t just do this for the heck of it. Studies suggest that these ancient gum chewers were less stressed out than their non gum chewing friends and neighbours.

Want more evidence? Well how about this? There was a study published in the Journal of Prosthodontic Research by Tasaka et al. from the Tokyo Dental College where the researchers found that cortisol (stress hormone) levels went down after their subjects’ chewed gum for an extended amount of time.

Here’s how they came up with that: the researchers asked 14 healthy men to do some arithmetic calculations for 30 minutes to build up stress, (even scientists think math is stressful). They then told the men to chew gum for for 5, 10 and 15 minutes or not at all. By the end of the experiment, the researchers found that the men who chewed the gum for longer (15 minutes) had lower cortisol levels that the those who chewed for short periods of time (5 minutes); oh and in case you’re wondering how the researchers measured the cortisol, they took samples of the participants spit, once before chewing gum and once after. Yeah it’s gross, but it’s all in the name of science, so SCIENCE AWAY. You can read more about the study here.

However, even though chewing gum does reduce stress, there are some drawbacks to excessive gum chewing. One study published in the journal Pediatric Neurology says that too much gum chewing can lead to chronic headaches in children and adolescents. Another branch of research in the journal ‘Eating Behaviors’ said that contrary to popular belief, chewing gum does not stop you from feeling hungry, and mint flavoured gums can stop people from wanting to eat healthy foods like fruit.

So does that mean you should stop chewing gum? No! It just means don’t do it too much. Think of it like medicine, take the correct dose and you’ll get better, take too much and then you’re just hurting yourself.

So if you’re prone to stress, try keeping some gum in your pockets or your purse, and try to take sugar free gum; no point increasing your blood sugar for no reason. Just be careful, you know how if you bring gum around everyone asks for some? Yeah, make sure your friends don’t take all of it.

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