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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note: Chewing Gum and Memory

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on how chewing gum may improve your memory.


CURWOOD: Coming up, a new study finds that organic foods may be better for you than you think. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.


PENNEY: Your teacher may have frowned upon it in class. But, chewing gum might just improve your memory. Researchers at the University of Northumbria in northern England had been noticing advertisements, touting gum's ability to help people concentrate. And they decided to check out the claim.

They had 75 people take a series of computerized tests. Twenty-five of the participants chewed sugarless gum, another 25 chewed nothing, and the remaining 25 were a sham chewing group that just moved their mouths and pretended to chew. Contrary to gum advertisements, gum chewers didn't do any better at concentration tests. But they did do about 35-percent better on memory tests than the other participants.

The researchers aren't sure how all this works. It might be because chewing gum raises heart rates, which could increase blood flow to the brain. And it is know that chewing stimulates the production of insulin. And there are many insulin receptors in a key memory area of the brain. But scientists don't know what role these receptors play. They also don't know what part of memory gum chewing helps. It could improve making memories in the first place, or it could also help in retrieving those memories. So until further research is done, you might want to chew a bit of gum to help you remember this week's Health Note. I'm Jessica Penney.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Sarastro Quartet, "Massig Bewegt," SRE SELECTION (SRI - 1998)]



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