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6 Hidden Health Benefits of Chewing Gum

A pack of chewing gum is an inexpensive treat that can make your day a little sweeter. Surprisingly, the benefits of chewing gum may go far beyond the simple task of sweetening your mouth. Chewing gum can also provide you with a variety of health benefits which makes that nickel piece of gum even more of a bargain. Here are some of the health benefits of chewing gum:

Promotion of weight loss

While chewing gum only burns around eleven calories per hour, the physical act of gum chewing may help to reduce your cravings for high calorie snacks. And you shouldn’t discount the calories burned from chewing gum. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that you would lose eleven pounds in a year if you chewed gum every hour you were awake during that time period. Of course the gum would need to be sugar free to offset the calories from the added sugar.

Improves digestion

Chewing gum after a meal not only helps to improve intestinal motility, it may also help to reduce the symptoms of chronic heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux or GERD.  The simple act of chewing gum helps to increase saliva flow which promotes more frequent swallowing. This helps to prevent reflux of acid from the stomach back into the throat. Unfortunately, it can also cause increased air swallowing which can lead to gas formation in the intestines.

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Fewer cavities

Chewing gum can reduce the number of cavities you experience as long as you chew sugarless gum. Not only does gum chewing increase saliva flow which reduces the number of cavity causing bacteria, many gums are sweetened with xylitol which has been shown to be effective in preventing dental cavities.

Stress reduction

Several small studies have shown that the rhythmic motion of chewing gum can help to relieve anxiety and expend nervous energy which can reduce symptoms of stress. The next time you’re stressed about meeting a deadline at work, pop a piece of sugarless gum in your mouth and see if it helps to clear your head.

Tooth whitening

There are a variety of sugarless gums on the market that actually help to whiten and brighten the surface of your teeth. Try chewing Trident White which has patented whitening technology to help get your teeth their whitest. It’s also a great way to refresh your mouth and breath when you don’t have time to go home and brush your teeth.

Boosts brain performance

Researchers have found that the act of chewing improves short- and long-term memory. Lucy Wilkinson and Dr. Andrew Scholey, who carried out a study at the University of Northumbria, believe that the gentle exercise of chewing may be enough to raise a person’s heart rate and increase the flow of oxygen to the brain. Chewing may also trigger the release of insulin in the body, which could increase the uptake of blood sugar by the brain.

In the study 75 volunteers were put through a series of standard memory and attention tests. A third chewed gum while carrying out the tests and a third were asked to pretend to chew. The rest did the tests without chewing. For part of the experiment the volunteers were given a list of 15 words and asked to recall them immediately and again after 25 minutes.

The gum chewers did significantly better than the others, remembering an average of eight or nine words immediately after hearing the list. The non-chewers and “sham chewers” only remembered six or seven words, said Dr. Scholey.

Chewing also improved longer-term memory. The gum chewers were able to remember an average of seven words after 25 minutes, compared to five for the other groups.

“We don’t think that it is anything in the gum, but that the resistance of the gum and the act of mastication that is making the difference,” he said. “We found an increase in the heart rate of five or six beats per minute when they were chewing gum. This may be unrelated to brain function, but on the other hand an increase in the blood delivery of oxygen to the brain may increase cognitive function.”

Chewing a stick of gum may fool the body into thinking that it is about to get a meal, increasing insulin production. The hippocampus, the region of the brain that deals with memory, has insulin receptors which are involved in increasing the uptake of glucose.

So next time you pop a piece of sugarfree chewing gum into your mouth, remember all the wonderful  health benefits you’re getting. It’ll make it taste all the sweeter.

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