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News and Commentary

Gum Chewing Harmful or helpful

Sometimes chewing gum is considered to be a bad habit, especially when you find someone who chews with their mouth open or likes to constantly pop it. Recently a study was conducted to see how gum affected teens with chronic headaches. The outcome was that giving up this habit may be beneficial to them and help reduce the number and amount of headaches they have.

While more research will need to be conducted beyond this 30 person study, the initial results were over whelming. If you have a teen that suffers from constant headaches and migraines, then this is one study you should look into.

So, to test the theory, they recruited 30 adolescents with chronic headaches who said they chewed gum daily. The participants were divided into categories based on how much time they spent chewing every day: up to one hour, one to three hours, three to six hours, or more than six hours per day. (Who is chewing gum more than six hours per day?? That’s actually chewing gum like it’s your job.)

An 87% rate helps prove their hypothesis that quitting chewing gum will help headaches. While this only works on the test subjects who met the criteria of having chronic headaches, being an adolescent, and also being a constant gum chewer, this study could still save thousands of kids who do meet those requirements.

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On the other hand you have gum chewing being beneficial. While is harms adolescents in the previous study, chewing gum has also been proven to improve attention span and increase one’s concentration. Some teachers have even been known to allow their kids to chew gum in case to help them learn.

The constant repetitive motion is suppose to help students brain focus on what is actually being taught. This constant motion you can see in those who tap their pencil or shake their foot when taking a test or trying to focus on something. Each person may have their own tick, but if yours is gum chewing studies have proven there are numerous positive side effects.

 Earlier this year, a study in the British Journal of Psychology found that participants who chewed gum maintained better concentration during the latter stages of a monotonous, 30-minute audio task. The gum chewers also had faster reaction times and more accurate results than the group without gum. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why chewing gum improves attention, but have hypothesized it may increase heart rate and blood flow. “This would result in more oxygen and glucose being delivered to the brain,” said study co-author Dr. Andrew Johnson, a psychology professor at Bournemouth University in Dorset, England, in an interview. “It’s also possible that the motion of chewing helped to maintain attention because participants were moving a little, rather than sitting stationary.” Previous studies have also demonstrated that gum-chewing is associated with reduced stress, enhanced mood, greater alertness and improved test performance.

Although all of these studies involved adults, there’s no reason kids as young as four years old can’t reap the cognitive benefits of chewing gum, said Carol Vickery, an occupational therapist in Calgary. “Chewing gum is soothing – but it can also be quite alerting. Those sluggish times right before recess – or when they’re having to sit still for a while – are ideal opportunities to give children gum,” she said – The Globe and Mail