Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chew Gum, Stay on Track

Even as I type this, I'm already chewing a piece of gum.  I'll be honest, I love the stuff, and I'm not alone.  Thousands of people chew gum for different reasons, whether it be to freshen their breath, cure temporary boredom, work out the jaw, or even help them stay on their diet.  Gum is a great tool in many regards, and if you don't already chew it on a regular basis, I hope this article might help you to take advantage of some of the benefits gum can offer.

First of all, before I say anything else, I recommend SUGAR FREE GUM.  This is the stuff you want, not its sugar packed cousin.  Sugared gum will have quite a few more calories and will most likely spike your insulin unnecessarily, kicking your diet off track little by little.  Sugar free gum only has sugar alcohol, which is only partially digested, so the calories are next to naught.  There are between 3.5 and 5 calories in sugar free gum, depending on whether you get the longer flatter pieces, or the shorter, more compact, thicker pieces.  Just check out the nutrition label on the back of the package.

So what are some of gum's most awesome benefits?  Let's examine a few, shall we?

Curbs Appetite:  Yes that's right, gum might keep you from overeating.  Because the action neccessary to chew gum so closely resembles consuming food, you may be able to trick your body into thinking it's actually receiving food when you're actually not!  Neat!

But don't go overboard on this nifty little fact.  Gum won't keep you full, and generally the effect will wear off or even reverse after a certain amount of time, because your stomach keeps expecting food it's not getting.  Gum should never be used as a meal replacement, or even a snack replacement.  It should be used as temporary tool to curb any existing hunger after you've known you already ate enough, or wish to take the edge off before a meal.  Simple things like that.  It doesn't work miracles, but it can definitely help you stay on track.  For example, it's said that gum chewers consume up to 10% less than non-gum chewers.  Not a bad figure, especially for such a simple solution.

Decreases Anxiety:  I bet you've noticed this effect before, as I certainly have.  Gum can help calm your nerves, as it focuses the mind elsewhere and gets rid of a little pent up, tension related energy.  This effect, in the long run, can end up helping you eat less, because anxiety is a HUGE culprit of binge eating.  If you're a little nervous, a simple stick of gum might do wonders for you.

Oral Health:  OK, I'm not going to say that chewing gum is a replacement for brushing your teeth, so don't get too excited.  But studies have show that chewing sugar-free gum can both directly and indirectly decrease the effect of plaque on your teeth.  Direct effects may include the actual removal of harmful food matter off of your teeth, and indirect effects include the stimulation of salivary glands which will help to fight the effects of plaque after a meal.  So pick up a stick of gum after dinner and you might impress your dentist a little more come your next appointment! (Though they always seems to complain anyway, don't they?)

Cognitive Performance:  Amazingly, gum can help your mind perform more sharply and efficiently.  There have been all sorts of studies done on gum and its effects on the brain, and many have shown that chewing gum can help test/school performance as a whole.  In fact, this article describes one of the studies quite well:

It turns out there’s an excellent rationale for this long-standing cultural habit: Gum is an effective booster of mental performance, conferring all sorts of benefits without any side effects. The latest investigation of gum chewing comes from a team of psychologists at St. Lawrence University. The experiment went like this: 159 students were given a battery of demanding cognitive tasks, such as repeating random numbers backward and solving difficult logic puzzles. Half of the subjects chewed gum (sugar-free and sugar-added) while the other half were given nothing. Here’s where things get peculiar: Those randomly assigned to the gum-chewing condition significantly outperformed those in the control condition on five out of six tests. (The one exception was verbal fluency, in which subjects were asked to name as many words as possible from a given category, such as “animals.”) The sugar content of the gum had no effect on test performance.

That's pretty remarkable if I don't say so myself.  Although I bet you're asking why this effect occurs.  This article goes on to state that this temporary sharpening of the mind (yes it's temporary, in the same article it said effects were only noticeable for about 20 minutes) is due to "mastication-induced arousal."  Now don't read that phrase out loud, as it will probably cause you to burst out laughing, but it basically means that chewing something wakes you up and causes you to be more alert.  It's a pretty simple concept, yet definitely one worth noting.

Chewing gum can definitely be an advantageous activity, and the great news is that it's probably one you already enjoy.  So chew with confidence, as you know you're doing your body a bit of good!

Remember, sugar-free.  Good Luck!

A few References:

1 comment:

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