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More on Chewing Gum and Appetite
I have patients who chew gum when they are trying to quit smoking but I have had only a few tell me they use gum chewing when they are trying to eat healthier. There's not been a lot of research on this (which I always found a bit odd). In a report in this months journal Appetite two researchers tackle just this very question (Appetite 2007: 48; 397 - 401).

How to Suppress Hunger
Vigorous exercise is known to reduce appetite, at least during and immediately after exercising, but what we don't know for sure is why. Researchers have looked at various hormones (known as "gut hormones") associated with appetite regulation and there does appear to be a difference in the effects of different types of exercise on these appetite-regulating hormones. But does that actually translate to an effect on appetite, and is it different for different types of exercise?

Make Your Diet More Effective with A Little Something Before Meals
There are all sorts of appetite reduction tips that I hear from my patients. Some swear bychewing gum to reduce their appetite, although at least one study indicates that it doesn't actually affect appetite. People also talk about having a glass of water before meals, and in one study it did seem that having two cups of water before meals helped people lose more weight. On the other hand, it may not be the water that's making the difference: in another study, those who had soup as a first course ate 20% less of the entree that followed.


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Appetite and chewing gum

A women putting a stick of chewing gum in her mouth

Large-scale, long term studies of total daily food intake show that between 1977 and 1994 the average American's food intake each day increased by about 200 calories. Most of this was in snacking, not regular meals. Other studies indicate that the more often a person eats, the more likely they are to consume more calories than they require and to risk overweight. Scientists at Purdue University theorized that a satisfying snack food with minimal calories might help reduce the number of extra calories eaten as snacks, leading to better weight management or even weight loss (Appetite 2007;48(2):167-175). What about chewing gum?

Forty-seven overweight men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 were recruited to participate in the study. Once per week for three weeks, the subjects were given the same lunch in the laboratory and asked to fill out a questionnaire rating their level of appetite and mood. They then left the laboratory, and for the rest of the day followed one of three procedures:

1. The first time they were hungry after lunch, they were to wait 20 minutes then eat whatever they wished. After eating they filled out an appetite questionnaire, then repeated the questionnaire again every hour until bedtime.

2. Two hours after lunch, the participant chewed a piece of gum (Juicy Fruit, actually) provided by the researchers for 20 minutes. After spitting out the gum, they filled out an appetite questionnaire, then again every 30 minutes until they felt hungry. Once they felt hungry, they were instructed to wait 20 minutes and then eat whatever they wanted, then fill out yet another appetite questionnaire, repeating it every hour until bedtime.

3. The last group waited until they were hungry, then chewed the provided gum for 20 minutes. After spitting it out, they filled out the appetite questionnaire and were permitted to eat whatever they wanted. If they were not hungry, however, they were to continue to fill out the appetite questionnaires every 30 minutes until they were hungry again, at which time they were to eat. Afterwards they were to fill out the appetite questionnaires every hour until bedtime.

The participants' records showed that regardless of whether they chewed gum or not, there was no difference in the amount of food they ate later in the day. Furthermore, their appetite levels at various points throughout the day were basically the same no matter when (or if) they chewed gum after lunch.

What this means for you

I have patients say all the time that they think that gum chewing helps them with their diet. This research doesn't bear that out. Try changing what you snack on, instead. Carrots and celery, for example, make great snacks. Fruit is a great choice, as well. They're low in calories, have great flavor, hardly any calories, and best of all, they're actually good for you. Cut up a bunch and keep them in the refrigerator at all times. Then snack away!

First posted: March 6, 2007