Chew more, stress less

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Australians are more stressed than ever before but new research suggests that there is a simpler solution to help us stress less. A first-ever study from Swinburne University of Technology has found that chewing sugarfree gum effectively reduces anxiety by more than 17 per cent during stressful situations.

The study also showed that chewing gum increases alertness and improves performance while multi-tasking.

Andrew Scholey, lead researcher and Professor of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at Swinburne said that studies he conducted at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Northumbria University demonstrated a relationship between increased alertness and a more relaxed state. 

“It is possible that chewing gum may be associated with positive, relaxing social behaviours,” Professor Scholey said.

The controlled, randomised study examined 40 people averaging an age of 22 years while they performed on the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS), a multi-tasking platform which reliably induces stress and measures performance. The participants’ levels of anxiety, alertness and stress levels were measured before and after completing the DISS while chewing and not chewing sugarfree gum.

The study found that levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 per cent. With an improved state of mind from chewing gum, the mean performance scores over non-gum chewers improved by a significant 67 per cent during stressful situations.

Professor Scholey said that the findings suggest that chewing gum may actually help us manage life’s daily stressors and keep us from reacting to situations like road rage or panic from looming deadlines.” 

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director of Food & Nutrition Australia Sharon Natoli, agreed that chewing sugarfree gum may provide health benefits over and above the well-known dental benefits. 

“The ability to cope with stress plays a significant role in every day health and wellbeing. Australians may not always have the time to fit stress management activities into their busy lives so chewing a piece of sugarfree gum provides an affordable and simple stress management technique that can be implemented any time and anywhere,” she said.

“Research also shows that chewing sugar free gum increases the number of kilojoules a person burns and can reduce the desire for sweet snacks. These effects in turn may assist with weight management and along with the dental health benefits, these new findings add to the growing body of evidence showing the variety of potential health benefits arising from chewing sugarfree gum,” Natoli added.

Professor Scholey’s research was commissioned by the Wrigley Science Institute™ and was presented at the 10th International Congress of Behavioural Medicine (ICBM) on 30 August 2008.