Chewing on gum discovered to cause memory loss

Published On: Monday, December 31, 2012 7:00 AM
By: Shifra Unger
Woman blowing a bubble with gum
Chewing gum can be annoying to people around you and leave behind a sticky mess, but now researchers say it also may hinder your memory.

According to experts at the University of Cardiff in the UK, people who chewed gum had a hard time remembering lists of letters and numbers over people who do not chew gum.

Researchers believe that the motion involved in chewing prevents the brain's ability to memorize lists of items. Like playing with your finger or the foot may distract attention from carrying out the same task, continuous movements such as chewing gum may also interfere with short-term memory.

The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, challenges the prevailing notion that chewing gum - at least when it comes to taste - it's a performance enhancer that can increase brain power.

It also provides further evidence that humans are bad at multitasking, reported the news media.
Some previous studies have indicated that chewing gum improves concentration by activating an increase in blood flow through the brain, said lead author Mikhail Kozlov, University of Cardiff.
But his team found that oral activity, such as chewing gum can interfere with the process normally used to remember the verbal content.

As part of the study, researchers gave tasks to carry out, while chewing gum and no gum.
In one test, the volunteers were told to chew hard and asked to recall a sequence of letters in random order, such as P, V, B, C, D, G, T. Another group repeated the experiment, but chewing at a natural pace.

In the second test, students that chew gum without flavor and tried to collect the missing element in the sequence.
The study found that there was no difference if the volunteers were chewing hard or naturally. In
 both cases, 'chewing has a generally adverse effect on the memory as non chewers," the researchers wrote.

The jury is still out, however, about the role of flavor. In a 2002 study, participants chewed gum with mint flavor and showed better performance in the short term with words and memory tasks than those who did not chew gum.

But because chewing gum loses its flavor in a few minutes, "it seems advisable that chewing gum is only considered a performance enhancer, as long as the flavor lasts," the researchers said.