Rationale: Recent research suggests that chewing gum may increase alertness and lead to changes in cognitive performance. The present study examined effects of chewing gum on these functions within the context of a single study.
Objectives: This study had four main aims. The first was to examine whether chewing gum improved learning and memory of information in a story. The second aim was to determine whether chewing gum improved test performance on a validated intellectual task (the Alice Heim task). A third aim was to determine whether chewing gum improved performance on short memory tasks (immediate and delayed recall of a list of words, delayed recognition memory, retrieval from semantic memory, and a working memory task). The final aim was to determine whether chewing gum improved mood (alertness, calm and hedonic tone).
Subjects and methods: A cross-over design was used with gum and no-gum sessions being on consecutive weeks. In each week, volunteers attended for two sessions, two days apart. The first session assessed mood, immediate recall of information from a story and performance on short memory tasks. The second session assessed mood, delayed recall of information from a story and performance of an intelligence test (the Alice Heim test).
Results: There were no significant effects of chewing gum on any aspect of recall of the story. Chewing gum improved the accuracy of performing the Alice Heim test which confirms the benefits of gum on test performance seen in an earlier study. Chewing gum had no significant effect on the short memory tasks. Chewing gum increased alertness at the end of the test session in both parts of the study. This effect was in the region of a 10% increase and was highly significant (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: The results of this study showed that chewing gum increases alertness. In contrast, no significant effects of chewing gum were observed in the memory tasks. Intellectual performance was improved in the gum condition. Overall, the results suggest further research on the alerting effects of chewing gum and possible improved test performance in these situations.