Wired points out a number of studies that show chewing gum can, in fact, boost your memory, attention, cognitive reasoning skills and other mental abilities.
Photo by Jamiesrabbits.
It's unclear why gum seems to have such a positive effect on our mental state, but a number of studies have shown it to be true:
Gum is an effective booster of mental performance, conferring all sorts of benefits without any side effects. The latest investigation of gum chewing comes from a team of psychologists at St. Lawrence University. The experiment went like this: 159 students were given a battery of demanding cognitive tasks, such as repeating random numbers backward and solving difficult logic puzzles. Half of the subjects chewed gum (sugar-free and sugar-added) while the other half were given nothing. Here's where things get peculiar: Those randomly assigned to the gum-chewing condition significantly outperformed those in the control condition on five out of six tests.
However, while these benefits have been studied time and again, this most recent study showed that the positive effects only last about 20 minutes. After more than 20 minutes of chewing, gum chewers are no better off than non-chewers when it comes to performance. Still, it's an interesting read -- and a good excuse to chew a bit of gum (quietly and preferably sugar-free) during your next exam, paper or other mentally intensive activity. Hit the link for the full article, and of course, don't forget it can help with heartburn too.