Humans have been finding things to chew on for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Mayans chewed on tree resin, while the first “chewing gum” was made in the 1800s from a type of rubber known as chicle (yup, the same stuff Chiclets were named after!). While today’s gum tastes a lot better, the ancient Greeks and Mayans may have been on to something? studies suggest the ancient chewers may have felt less stress than their non-gum-chewing counterparts.
For starters, chewing gum is associated with reduced anxiety and lower cortisol levels. The stress relief can occur almost immediately, but has long-term effects, too. In one study, participants who chewed gum twice a day for fourteen days rated their anxiety as significantly less than the non-chewers. And not only are gum-chewers less stressed, they may be more alert, too. In another study, people who chewed gum while completing memory-related tasks had quicker reaction times and a higher sustained attention span than non-chewers.
Just be sure to stick with sugar-free gum, which contains fewer calories and (you guessed it!) sugar. Sugar-free gum has been shown to help clean teeth and reduce cavities, as well as improve bad breath (now that’s stressful!).
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