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Cognitive science researchers wondered whether chewing gum would increase blood flow to the brain and therefore have lots of positive influence on what happens there. They were right.
It turns out that chewing gum can increase alertness and intellectual performance. Results among several studies were mixed on whether chewing gum improves memory, however.
All of this is nuanced, of course. For example, one study showed that chewing gum before taking an exam improved performance, but chewing during the exam did not improve the results. Researchers speculate that the chewing before the exam serves as a warm up, sending more blood to the brain similar to what happens during mild exercise.
Other studies have concluded that chewing gum can reduce anxiety by reducing the levels of cortisol which is associated with stress.
Another study found that chewing gum for a long time can reduce feelings of depression by activating the ventral part of the prefrontal cortex.
Lots more research needs to be done, but researchers are encouraged about findings so far from the simple, inexpensive practice of chewing gum.