July 13, 2016

Daniel L. Kresge & Kathleen Melanson

Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA.

Gum chewing has been promoted as beneficial for oral health, cognitive performance, alertness, and stress relief. Increasingly, it is also advocated for weight management because gum chewing may reduce hunger and food cravings, while replacing higher calorie snacks. There are means by which calorie intake might be lowered by gum chewing, but little work had been done to examine calorie expenditure with gum chewing at a natural pace. Since chewing gum is associated with significant muscle activity of the tongue and jaw, it seems reasonable that it would raise calorie expenditure, but this had not been tested, and the extent of the increase under different conditions was unknown. Both calorie intake and expenditure need to be considered for weight management.

This study measured calorie expenditure in 30 healthy males and females who chewed sugarless gum for three 20-minute sessions over the course of a morning, as compared to an identical morning of tests without gum chewing. The first gum chewing session of the morning occurred while the volunteers were still in a fasted state, before a standardized breakfast. The next two sessions occurred at equal intervals during the three hours between breakfast and lunch. This is important, because subjects are often only tested while fasting, although most people spend much of their day in a fed state. Measurements of calorie expenditure occurred throughout the morning, along with tests of which fuel they were burning, and periodic samples of blood sugar. Each of the 17 men and 13 women came to the laboratory two times for test mornings that only differed in terms of whether they chewed gum or not. The order of test mornings was randomized. Their age averaged 21.5±6.6y and their body mass index (BMI) was in the normal range.

Before breakfast, while subjects were still fasting, calorie expenditure was higher during gum chewing (1.23±0.04 kcal/min) than not gum chewing (1.17±0.04 kcal/min). Similarly, during the two gum chewing sessions in the fed state, calorie expenditure was higher (1.51±0.05 kcal/min) than not gum chewing (1.43±0.05 kcal/min). However, gum chewing did not impact blood sugar, or which fuel was burned. After each gum chewing session, calorie expenditure returned to similar level to that without gum chewing.

In conclusion, chewing gum was associated with small yet significantly higher calorie expenditure than not chewing, in both the fasting and the fed states. This effect of approximately 5-8% was not associated with a difference in blood sugar or fuel type being burned. Chewing at a natural pace for 20 minutes burned about the amount of calories that are contained in the sugarless gum (sweetened with sugar alcohols). Thus, sugarless gum should be recommended over sugar-containing gum, which has more calories than what was expended per session measured in this study. These data, in combination with data on appetite, suggest that chewing gum potentially could influence short-term calorie balance in this population. Longer term research is needed, and testing subjects who carry excess body weight would also be an important next step.

This article is a summary of an article published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. If you intend citing any information in this article, please consult the original article and cite that source. This summary was written for the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and it has been reviewed by the CSEP Knowledge Translation Committee.

Original Article

Kresge DL, Melanson KJ. Chewing gum increases energy expenditure before and after controlled breakfasts. Applied Physiology, Nutirtion, and Metabolism; 2015, 40(4):401-406 18:1-6. dx.doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2014-0232