Chewing gum can boost brainpower

Chewing gum can greatly improve the performance of the brain, research issued yesterday suggests. People who chewed gum scored 40 per cent more in memory tests than those who didn't in a study presented to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Blackpool.

Dr Andrew Scholey, of the human cognitive neuroscience unit at the University of Northumbria, described the improvement in memory as "quite dramatic".

Although chewing gum was first marketed in America more than 150 years ago, Dr Scholey's work is the first to look at its impact on mental performance. Three groups of 25 people took part in the experiment. The first chewed gum throughout, the second had nothing and the third went through the chewing motion with nothing in their mouth. They then completed 12 computerised tests to measure attention span, response rate and long and short-term memory.

During tests to recall 15 words, the gum-chewers remembered two to three more than the non-chewers. There was no effect on concentration, but the heartbeat of the gum-chewers increased by an average of three to four beats a minute compared with only a very slight increase among the fake chewers.

Dr Scholey said chewing gum might improve memory because the heartbeat increased and delivered more oxygen and glucose to the brain. Alternatively, chewing could stimulate insulin production, which affected the part of the brain involved in memory.

Dr Scholey said: "We found a very clear pattern of improved memory when gum was chewed. We think it is the effect of chewing that causes this rather than anything in the gum itself. There are lots of ways to improve mental function. This may be one of a series of interventions that people may want to try.''

Well known gum-chewers include Sir Alex Ferguson, Robbie Williams and Martine McCutcheon.

Previous work by Dr Scholey has shown that ginseng can enhance the memory and gingko can improve memory and concentration.

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