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Effects of Chewing Menthol Gum on the Alertness of Healthy Volunteers and Those with an Upper Respiratory Tract Illness


Andrew Smith, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, 63 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AS, UK.



Recent research has shown that chewing gum increases subjective alertness. Upper respiratory tract illnesses (URTIs) lead to reduced alertness, and it has been shown that stimulants such as caffeine can reverse this effect. It is now important to determine whether menthol chewing gum can produce a similar effect. Young adults with an URTI (N = 16) and a healthy control group (N = 12) rated their mood and symptoms on two occasions (the first when those with a URTI were ill and the second when both groups were healthy). During each session, volunteers provided a rating while chewing gum and when they were not chewing. Those with a URTI reported reduced alertness, which persisted into convalescence. Chewing gum was associated with greater alertness in both those with URTIs and the healthy group. Chewing gum reduced the severity of nasal symptoms in those with a cold. The effects of the URTI and menthol gum may reflect changes in trigeminal stimulation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.