“We call it the gum study,” said Kathleen Melanson, URI associate professor of nutrition, who is researching eating habits and how they might relate to weight gain.
According to Melanson, a major concern of health professionals in the U.S. is the nation’s overweight population, and researchers at URI are exploring a wide variety of ways to determine how eating habits affect weight gain and loss. Melanson made national news two years ago when one of her studies indicated that eating slowly can result in the consumption of fewer calories.
The latest study takes a different tack—chewing more thoroughly. Previous studies had not used this tactic to slow eating rate, but Melanson’s research provides clues that it might be important.
“We want to explore what is it about chewing that helps people eat less,” she said. “There are indications that the act of chewing sends certain signals to the brain that could affect appetite.”
To explore this concept, she and her post-doctoral student, Dan Kresge, are relying on something quite low-tech—chewing gum.
For the gum study, Melanson and Kresge need 40-60 volunteers, both men and women, in the 18-48 age bracket. Those who sign up will receive a $60 stipend for finishing the study. Participants must make three visits to the nutrition labs in URI’s Ranger Hall. The first visit will be used to gather information and to measure a participant’s body composition and fitness.
The next two sessions will last about 4-5 hours each. Before each session, the participants will be asked to fast overnight and to avoid caffeine, alcohol, strenuous activity and unusual foods. The volunteers will lie on a hospital bed under a ventilated hood hooked to a machine that measures respiratory gases. During this phase, volunteers will chew gum during one of the two days.
The volunteers will then be given a shake to consume and asked to rate appetite and the palatability of the shake and then return to the hood for more measurements. On the gum-chewing days, volunteers will chew gum for two more sessions during the course of the morning.
Those interested in taking part in the study are asked to e-mail email@example.com and mention “Gum Study.”