Effect of chewing gum on short and long-term food choice and calorie intake
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Chewing gum before eating may reduce appetite and alter short and long-term food selection. One mechanism for this may be a reduction in motivation to get food, operationalized as reinforcing value. The reinforcing value of food is measured by how hard people will work to get access to food. The purpose of the first study was to test the hypothesis that chewing gum reduces the reinforcing value of food. A follow-up study tested the hypothesis that chewing gum before intake would reduce total calorie consumption in the field. In the first study, participants were instructed to chew mint gum, fruit gum, or no gum for 15 minutes before playing a game to earn points for food. Participants then played a food reinforcement game where they could win portions of a "healthy" food (mandarin oranges or grapes), and portions of a "snack" food (M&M's or potato chips). After participants earned as many points toward food that they wanted, they were instructed to consume as much or as little as they wanted in the laboratory. The participants also rated their hunger and liking of the study foods before and after chewing gum and before and after eating. In study 2, participants were instructed to chew gum before every single eating occasion while keeping a strict food journal, and keep a strict food journal while abstaining from chewing gum. For the gum interventions, participants chewed Nutratrim chewing gum, a "weight loss" gum, for one week, Eclipse chewing gum for one week, and no gum for one week while recording intake. The results of study 1 showed that mint gum reduced consumption of the healthy food and liking of the healthy food, and both mint and fruit gum reduced reported hunger levels compared to the no gum condition. Despite the effect on hunger, neither of the chewing gums reduced consumption of high calorie snack foods or had an effect on total calories consumed. In the second study, no significant effects on daily calories were seen, however, an increase in calories per meal and a decrease in number of meals were seen during the chewing gum weeks. Additionally, during the no gum week, participants had a significantly higher Mean Nutrient Adequacy Ratio (MAR), indicating more of their nutrient needs were met during that week. Despite use of a special weight loss gum, there were no significant weight differences after each intervention. These studies show that using chewing gum as a dietary tool may be detrimental, because it does not have a significant effect on calorie consumption and it decreases consumption of healthy foods and nutrients. Though using chewing gum as a weight loss tool may help appetite reduction, it may not decrease consumption of high calorie foods.