Chewing Gum Causes Migraines in Teens, Study


Chewing gum has become a style statement among teenagers and young adults. But this habit causes recurring headaches that could eventually lead to migraines, according to a Tel Aviv University study.

Researcher's advice teens and young adults, who are avid gum-chewers and suffer from chronic headaches, to abandon the habit.

For the study, Dr. Nathan Watemberg from the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center hired 30 patients (25 teen girls and five boys), aged between six and 19, who suffer from chronic headaches. The participants chewed gum for a maximum of six hours and a minimum of one hour per day. The participants were then asked to quit chewing gum for a month.

The researchers found that 26 participants had reduced headaches (migraine symptoms) when they skipped chewing gum. Also, 19 of the 26 participants stopped getting these headaches altogether. The researchers then asked the 26 patients to resume chewing gum. They reported their migraine symptoms returned.

This finding can help treat migraine and headaches in adolescents without any additional testing or medication.

Headaches are a common phenomenon in childhood that becomes frequent during teenage years, particularly among girls. Stress, tiredness, lack of sleep, heat, video games, noise, sunlight, smoking, missed meals, and menstruation commonly cause headaches. But this is the first study that has established a link between gum chewing and headaches.

Although the researchers could not exactly identify how chewing gum causes migraines, they believe that it might be due to the stress caused on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), a meeting point between the jaw and the skull. Chewing gum puts extra stress on the joint.

"Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches," Watemberg said in a press release. "I believe this is what's happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively."

Another reason as to why gum-chewing results in headaches might be due to aspartame, an artificial sweetener, used in sugar-free products. However, Watemberg claims that the sweetener's percentage is too low in chewing gums to cause headaches and migraines.

The finding has been published in Pediatric Neurology.

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