By Margarita Nahapetyan
A new research which was funded by a chewing gum manufacturer suggests that people who chew sugar-free gum throughout the afternoon, are less likely to consume sweet snacks after having a lunch.
Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., carried out an experiment involving 115 male and female volunteers with the ages between 18 and 54 years. All the participants, being regular gum chewers, were asked to visit the Pennington laboratory twice - after a standard breakfast on two different days. The recruits filled out questionnaires rating their self-perceived levels of hunger, cravings for snacks and energy levels.
During each visit to lab, the participants were eating sandwiches for lunch, nutrient rich enough to account for 25 per cent of their recommended daily caloric intake. On one of the two days, they were offered nine different sugar-free chewing gums of their choice. An hour later after receiving lunch, each participant was asked to chew sugarless gum for 15 minutes each hour - over three hours, in the period between lunch and snack time. The other afternoon, chewing of the gum was not allowed during that time.
Roughly three and half hours after having lunch, each person was presented with a variety of custom-selected snacks. Three out of twelve snacks were high in fat and sugar, including blueberry muffins and chocolate-covered doughnuts. The next three were high in fat and starch, such as potato chips and croissants. Another three types of snacks were low in fat but high in sugar, such as fat free chocolate pudding. And finally, the last trio was low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates, including fat free popcorn and baked chips.
Participants were told that they could eat as much of the snacks as they desired. As a result, the majority reported that when they chewed gum, they had significantly decreased feelings of hunger and cravings for some sweet snack. Also, the gum chewers felt they maintained energy levels throughout the afternoon and also felt significantly less drowsy at the second and the third hours before the afternoon snack. In addition, the investigators found that on the day the volunteers had chewed the gum, they consumed 40 fewer snack calories and 60 fewer sweet snack calories, compared to the day when they were not allowed to chew gum.
Investigator Dr. Paula J Geiselman, chief of women's health and eating behavior and smoking cessation at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said that previous studies have shown the link between gum chewing and lower consumption of snacks, but this new study is the first to examine the macronutrient composition of afternoon snack food choices made by men and women after chewing sugar-free gum.
According to Dr. Geiselman, overall, these findings point to the potential role that chewing gum can play in appetite control, desire for snack cravings and weight control. Even small and, on first sight, insignificant changes in calories can have an impact in the long term. And, this new study supports the role of chewing gum as an easy, practical tool when it comes to managing snack, and, in particular, sweet snack, intake and cravings.
The findings were presented on April 19, at the American Society for Nutrition at the Experimental Biology 2009 conference in New Orleans. The study was supported by a grant from the Wrigley Science Institute.