Chewing gum 2017-10-16T18:47:38+00:00

Chewing gum

Difficulty Level:

Easy

Frequency:

Repeat as often as you need

Duration:

Chew for the duration of your task

How to do it

Have a task that’s going to take up a lot of attention? Having a hard time concentrating? Keep getting distracted by a wandering mind? Pull out a piece of gum (tip: make it mint flavoured (1, 2)) and chew on it for the duration of your task.

Repeat as often as you need!

The secret of peppermint

Peppermint has been long investigated for its positive effects within the body. A simple whiff of peppermint can actually help you:

Focus

Calm your nerves

Lessen anxiety

Enhance motivation

Decrease fatigue

Increase athletic performance

Here's the proof!

It all started in the 1990s, when a group of researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that a brief whiff of peppermint helped participants concentrate and do better on tasks that required sustained attention. This research has been extended to tasks requiring sustained attention such as driving. In 2009, researchers pumped peppermint into a driving chamber and found that peppermint led to increased ratings of alertness and reduced fatigue. It even reduced driver’s anxiety and minimized irritability (3)!

Not only can peppermint help with attention and focus but a 2013 study also found that exercise performance shot up after a single drop of peppermint oil before and after 10 days of exercise!

Participants were able to put in 50% more work, 20% more power and 25% greater time to exhaustion (11)

Research behind peppermint

The research has attributed the amazing effects of peppermint to increases in the saturation of oxygen and blood pressure, which promotes an arousal effect on the physiological system. In terms of concentration and attention, blood is the carrier of oxygen to your brain. So, if peppermint increases the available amount of oxygen in your blood while also increasing your blood pressure, more oxygen will be delivered to your brain, which is responsible for increased attention.

Why should you try chewing peppermint gum?

Increased cerebral activity (4)

Improves long-term memory (7)

Alleviates negative mood (8)

Relieves stress (8)

Regulates cognitive function (5)

Sleepiness prevention (9)

Improves focus, attention/sustained attention (3, 5, 6)

Adds insulin to the blood which gives your brain an added energy boost

The research

Research shows that chewing gum can lead to up to a 67% increase in self-reported measures of alertness compared to those not chewing gum while performing vigilance tasks (5,6). In addition, it has also been shown to increase levels of contentedness (5), calmness (5) and decrease levels of anxiety (8). Two recent studies investigated the effect of gum chewing on memory (4, 7). They found a 35% increase in memory performance for those who chewed gum while completing a memory task. Chewing gum has also been shown to prevent daytime sleepiness compared to those who don’t chew gum while performing tasks.

How it works

How gum chewing can benefit certain aspects of cognition is now well established. This benefit can be attributed to an increase in neurological activity. In particular, it increases cerebral blood flow, which is due to an increased heart rate from chewing. An increase in heart rate leads to more oxygen being delivered to the brain, resulting in increased attention, which can last, from 15-20 minutes. This increased neural activity is localized to bilateral areas (both sides) of the brain responsible for consciousness and alertness (10). It is important to note that studies have performed experiments comparing gum chewing with sham chewing (the act of chewing without anything in your mouth) and the act of sham chewing does not have the same effects as actually chewing on a piece of gum.

The evidence

  1. Norrish M., & Dwyer K. (2005).
    Preliminary investigation of the effect of peppermint oil on an objective measure of daytime sleepiness.
    International Journal of Psychophysiology, 55, 291-8.

  2. Warm J., Dember W., & Parasuraman R. (2011).
    Effects of olfactory stimulation on performance and stress in a visual sustained attention task.
    Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 42, 199-210.

  3. Raudenbush, B., Grayhem, R., Sears, T., & Wilson, I. (2009).
    Effects of peppermint and cinnamon odor 
administration on simulated driving alertness, mood and workload.
    North American Journal of Psychology, 11, 
245-256. 


  4. Hirano Y, Obata T, Kashikura K, Nonaka H, Tachibana A, Ikehira H, & Onozuka M. (2008).
    Effects of chewing in working memory processing.
    Neuroscience Letters, 436, 189- 92.

  5. Johnson, A., Muneem, M., & Miles, C. (2013).
    Chewing gum benefits sustained attention in the absence of task degradation.
    Nutritional Neuroscience, 16, 153–159.

  6. Morgan, K., Johnson, A., & Miles, C. (2014).
    Chewing gum moderates the vigilance decrement.
    British Journal of Psychology, 105, 214 –225.

  7. Wilkinson, L., Scholey, A., & Wesnes, K. (2002).
    Chewing gum selectively improves aspects of memory in healthy volunteers. Appetite, 38, 235–236.

  8. Scholey A., Haskell C., Robertson B., Kennedy D., Milne A., Wetherell M. (2009).
    Chewing gum alleviates negative affect and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress.
    Physiology & Behaviour, 97, 304–312.

  9. Johnson, A., Miles, C., Haddrell, B., Harrison, E., Osborne, L., Wilson, N., & Jenks, R. (2012).
    The effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness.
    Physiology & Behaviour,105, 815-820.

  10. Onozuka, M., Fujita, M., Watanabe, K., Hirano, Y., Niwa, M., Nishiyama, K., & Saito, S. (2002).
    Mapping brain region activity during chewing: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging study.
    Journal of Dental Research, 81(11), 743–746.

  11. Meamarbashi & Rajabi. (2013).
    The effects of peppermint on exercise performance.
    Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10, 15.