This week, Dr. Bob Murray asks the question, “should we walk and chew gum at the same time?” It may sound humorous, but he presents some research that may have you grabbing for some gum at the grocery store checkout line! Thanks for your insights, Dr. Bob!
From the often-quirky world of science comes a study from Japan that reported increased fat burning in research subjects who chewed gum while they walked. Evidently, there is somewhat of a minor fixation in Japan on chewing as reflected by a Japanese government program called Kamingu 30 that encourages people to chew each bite of food 30 times before swallowing in an attempt to slow eating speed and thereby help combat increasing obesity in Japan. It turns out that chewing gum stimulates our nervous system in ways that might increase the calories we burn during exercise. (The idea of chewing each bite of food a prescribed number of times hearkens back to Horace Fletcher, American health food enthusiast of the Victorian era. Horace, nicknamed “the great masticator,” believed that each bite of food should be chewed 100 times until it is liquefied before swallowing…even liquids were to be “chewed!”)
In fact, a study published in 2018 showed that chewing gum while walking increased heart rate, calories burned, and the distance walked, so the same group of scientists followed up with a study that added other measures to get a more complete understanding of how gum chewing while walking might benefit weight control. Fifteen healthy volunteers (10 male, 5 female), ages 27-58, completed two exercise sessions, both requiring them to walk at their own pace for 15 minutes on an indoor track. During one session, the subjects chewed two pieces of gum throughout their walk. During another session, they chewed and swallowed a tablet containing the same ingredients but without the gum portion.
In both sessions, the subjects wore heart rate monitors and other equipment that allowed the researchers to measure their energy (calorie) expenditure along with other measures such as step count, distance, and fat oxidation (fat burning).
The results were similar to that of the first study: when the subjects chewed gum while walking, they walked faster, took more steps, had higher heart rates, and burned more calories and more fat. The differences were small but statistically meaningful. The researchers speculated that the differences they found could positively affect weight control when the results were extrapolated over months of normal daily walking. Scientific speculation of this sort often doesn’t pan out as predicted, but in this case, chewing gum while walking is not likely to cause any harm and might possibly add up to a meaningful calorie-burn over time. Other studies have shown that chewing gum reduces the number of calorie consumed at meals and increases the number of calories burned when gum is chewed after meals.
It improves alertness (maybe that is why we’re seeing more pro golfers chew gum during tournaments?)
None of these results leads to the conclusion that we’d all be thin if we only chewed more gum. The moral to this story is that there are little things we can do each day to help us burn more calories. Sitting less, fidgeting when we do sit, moving more whenever possible, portion control at meals, staying hydrated, eating more fiber, and yes, chewing gum while walking can all add to managing our daily energy (calorie) input and output.
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