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Chewing Gum and Intelligence: 1800Dentist.com

Throughout history man has gnawed on various incarnations of chewing gum for pleasure and to promote dental health. The behavior is also known for impacting thinking, for better or for worse!

Each year, humans chomp on 100,000 tons of chewing gum; that supports $19 billion in annual sales world wide. There are countless types of chewing gum and regardless of the flavor, gum has been found to improve some cognitive behaviors such as abstract thinking while impairing and can mess up short term memory.

Chewing Gum=Smart?

Around the world chewing gum is a hot button issue, some cannot live without their favorite candy while elsewhere the product is banned from use. However, supporters of the confectionery delight are convinced that their favorite vice also helps their brain power and there are various studies that support that philosophy.

Researchers from St. Lawrence University analyzed what effect (if any) chewing gum had on the cognitive reasoning of 159 undergraduate students. Half of the group participants chewed on gum and the other half did not; all were required to take challenging mental tests focusing on repeating lists of random numbers backwards or completing logic puzzles. Turns out the gum chewers (who were able to chew for five minutes prior to testing) outperformed their non-chewing counterparts for 15 to 20 minutes of test taking (http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/does-chewing-gum-make-you-smarter).

That is not the only study linking gum chewing to smarts. A variety of studies showed similar results. In each case researchers hypothesized that chewing gum helped individuals focus and eliminate outside distractions.

Gum Chewing=Stupid?

Before you commit to buying a pack of gum, other research has found that the activity can inhibit effective short-term memory. Research conducted by the University of Cardiff in the UK once again pitted gum chewers against their non-chomping counterparts. This study required group participants to list words or numbers in the order which they were received plus they had to identify missing list items purposely omitted from the readings.

The results of this study indicated that chewing gum inhibited cognitive thinking as the process made it more difficult for group participants to repeat the list accurately as well as preventing study participants from pinpointing what items were missing from the list. The Cardiff researchers suggest that chewing gum blocks cognitive thinking as the behavior is more of a distraction (http://gizmodo.com/5906241/does-chewing-gum-make-you-dumb).

Gum Chewing Smart or Stupid?

There is no arguing that the various studies present conflicting information, but that is for good reason; the different tests required participants to use a variety of processes and brain cells thus delivering unique results making it impossible to say whether or not chewing gum is good or bad for the brain, however, individuals who want to have their gum and chew can boost their dental health.

The right chewing gum (sugar-free and containing xylitol) can indeed help promote dental health. Chewing gum increases saliva production which will wash away dental plaque and reduce the odds of developing dental problems including cavities, tooth decay or gum disease.

Individuals looking to chew gum to improve their dental health need to chose wisely, chew in moderation and never think that the process can replace oral hygiene. Instead, gum chewers must conduct their due diligence in regards to brushing, flossing, eating a nutritious diet, drinking clean fresh water and partaking in regular dental visits complete with exams and cleanings. Those lacking a dentist for the latter can quickly find a great dental care provider by calling 1-800-DENTIST.