Chewing gum could make us smarter, according to a study carried out in the U.K. by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit in Reading. They found that chewing gum has a positive effect on cognitive tasks such as thinking and memory.

?The results were extremely clear and specifically we found that chewing gum targeted memory,? says Andrew Scholey of the university’s Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit. ?People recalled more words and performed better in tests on working memory.?

It doesn?t matter what kind of gum you chew?what?s important is the repetitive chewing motion. Scholey believes the improved performance in a range of memory tests could be due to an increase in heart rate coupled with a surge in insulin to the brain from the sugar in the gum.

The experiments involved 75 people split into groups of non-chewers, real chewers and pretend chewers. Before starting the 25-minute test, the two chewing groups spent three minutes chewing their real or imaginary gum. The tests included questions relating to short-term memory, such as recalling words and pictures, and so-called working memory, such as the ability to remember a telephone number. The heart rate of the real chewers after the tests was three beats per minute faster than the non-chewers, and 1.5 beats per minute faster than the pretend chewers.

?What we think is that the mild increase in heart rate [caused by chewing] may improve the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain, enough to improve cognitive function,? Scholey says. ?It is known that there are insulin receptors in areas of the brain which are important for learning and memory.?

So maybe schools shouldn?t forbid chewing gum after all.

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