Chewing gum isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of weight loss. But with more than 70 percent of adults in the United States overweight or obese, you take good news where you can get it.
Exercise and a balanced diet have been shown to be the most effective way to achieve a healthy weight. A small study from Japan, presented at a medical conference in Europe, showed that chewing gum while walking may actually help you burn more energy and potentially help with weight loss.
Researchers studied 46 men and women (ages from 21 to 69) with a body mass index (BMI) between 22 and 30. All were habitual gum chewers, chewing gum more than once per week.
The people studied were divided into two groups. Group 1 chewed two pieces of gum for 15 minutes while walking. Group 2 drank the same ingredients (minus the actual gum base) mixed in water — to ensure that there wasn’t some special effect of the gum ingredients — waited an hour, then walked their 15 minutes. Heart monitors measured heart rate, while a stride sensor measured walking speed; both numbers were used to calculate energy expenditure.
Walking, of course, burns calories. But men over the age of 40 were found to burn almost two additional calories per minute when walking while chewing gum. Women in this study, younger and older, did not have significant changes in their energy expenditure.
But don’t run to the store for packs of gum just yet. More research will need to be done with a larger group to evaluate whether gum chewing would actually make enough of a difference to shift the weight.
Chantel Strachan, MD, is a second-year internal medicine resident at the University of Connecticut who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.