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Chewing gum alleviates negative mood and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2009
JournalPhysiology & behavior
Journal number3-4
Volume97
Number of pages9
Pages304-312
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The notion that chewing gum may relieve stress was investigated in a controlled setting. A multi-tasking framework which reliably evokes stress and also includes performance measures was used to induce acute stress in the laboratory. Using a randomised crossover design forty participants (mean age 21.98 years) performed on the multi-tasking framework at two intensities (on separate days) both while chewing and not chewing. Order of workload intensity and chewing conditions were counterbalanced. Before and after undergoing the platform participants completed the state portion of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Bond-Lader visual analogue mood scales, a single Stress Visual Analogue Scale and provided saliva samples for cortisol measurement. Baseline measures showed that both levels of the multi-tasking framework were effective in significantly reducing self-rated alertness, calmness and contentment while increasing self-rated stress and state anxiety. Cortisol levels fell during both levels of the stressor during the morning, reflecting the predominance of a.m. diurnal changes, but this effect was reversed in the afternoon which may reflect a measurable stress response. Pre-post stressor changes (Delta) for each measure at baseline were subtracted from Delta scores under chewing and no chewing conditions. During both levels of stress the chewing gum condition was associated with significantly better alertness and reduced state anxiety, stress and salivary cortisol. Overall performance on the framework was also significantly better in the chewing condition. The mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown but may involve improved cerebral blood flow and/or effects secondary to performance improvement during gum chewing.