Chewing Is An Energy-Intensive Exercise
Have you heard about the new diet taking the world by storm? The Panda Chu Chu Diet involves eating bamboo 12 hours a day and those on this diet are achieving unbelievable outcomes. This is fake news of course; but chewing is an energy-intense exercise. A recent study into the energetics and evolutionary significance of mastication by biologists and bio-technologists from the University of Manchester has revealed the cost of chewing in terms of our metabolism. Chewing stuff can burn quite a bit of energy and probably more than you thought. This has positive ramifications for those wishing to lose weight and live healthier lives.
You Chew, I Chew, Giant Panda’s Chew Too
Giant Pandas do chew bamboo for around 12-14 hours per day and this takes up most of their energy on a daily basis. Many other animals and mammals in particular spend their lives chewing on fibrous foods. Monkeys, cows, sheep, bears, and herbivore and some omnivorous animals, more generally, use their powerful jaws to masticate raw foods. The average human being spends just 35 minutes chewing food in the act of eating each day. Human beings mastered the use of fire to cook some of their foods and over many hundreds of millennia this contributed to our evolutionary transformation in terms of us having smaller mouths, jaws and teeth. This use of technology has continued and in modern times the human consumption of raw foods has plummeted over time. Think about how much cooked food vs raw food you consume in your own diet. For most people in the West it would be something like 90% plus.
What To Chew? Just Chew!
Discussion about diet can be more emotive than you might think, even amongst scientists. Vegans, vegetarians, and raw foodists, often, provoke strong feelings from those who don’t share their enthusiasm for such things. Meat eaters bang the proverbial table when defending their right to eat other animals. Eating predominantly cooked food and meat-rich diets have been championed by science as the reason our brains have developed so much over time. One article I read in Scientific American (is that an oxymoron?) stated that a raw food diet in female humans does not provide enough energy for menstruation in 50% of those surveyed in a study. There are many ways to read data, however, and questionnaires are limited by the questions asked of participants in surveys.
Understanding the Science of Chewing
“Chewing evolved some 260 million years ago and is associated with a range of vertebrate taxa … an essential outcome of mastication is the comminution of a food into small particles, lubricating them with saliva, so promoting the formation of a bolus (a ball of particles bound together by saliva) that can be swallowed easily and then digested . Teeth break foods down mechanically in the oral cavity via the initiation and propagation of fractures that are often resisted by the internal mechanical properties of these foods. The energy needed to reduce food particles from their ingested size down to what is swallowed defines the efficiency of the process. Variation in mammalian diets is thought to have driven the evolution of variably complex tooth morphologies and masticatory kinematics as adaptive changes in masticatory morphology are thought, at least in part, to deliver reductions in the work needed to produce a given food particle size. For mammals consuming foods where nutrients are not readily available, such as in many plant-based resources, the ability to chew effectively, reducing food to small particles for minimal effort, and perhaps within a reasonable time period depending on the exact selection pressures acting on the individual, is vital. Evidence from a range of placental and marsupial mammals indicates that degradation in an individual’s ability to chew can have a detrimental effect on an animal’s survival.”
The Chewing Test Parameters
The study conducted by biologists and bio-technologists from the University of Manchester utilised flavourless and odourless chewing gum. This was done to isolate the chewing activity from the more mouth-watering effects of saliva if a juicy steak had been involved in the research study. Soft and a more stiff gum were both used to test the chewing activity as an energy expender. There was a 5% extra energy burn with the stiffer chewing gum. Therefore what we chew as humans affects the metabolic rate. Chewing soft gum increased the expenditure by 10% and this was lifted to 15% by the stiffer gum. Imagine what chewing bamboo would burn up!
Chewing Sugarless Gum Good For Your Teeth
Immediately one can jump to an easy conclusion around incorporating sugarless gum into one’s diet. Dentists who promote such things would be happy to have another reason for some folks to get on board with the practice. Sugarless gum is considered to promote saliva production in the mouth and therefore protects teeth from plaque build-up, especially after meals and when you cannot brush.
Chew Your Food More & For Longer
The main crux of the results of this research is not really about promoting chewing gum, however. It is about the act of chewing itself and the importance of this activity. You do need good teeth to chew, though. I remember my mother reminding me when I was little to chew my food properly. I, also, have come across regimes promoting the number of chews before you should swallow. According to Healthline, 32 is the magic number of times you should chew your food before swallowing. Breaking your food into smaller morsels makes digestion easier for our body. Chewing more slowly encourages us to eat less, as our body has more time to feel full. Galloping down snacks and meals in front of TV screens promotes overeating and poor digestion. The average person in the West is spending 10 hours per day in front of screens, this is really bad for our health on so many levels. Sedentary lifestyles are literally killing us, as we are not designed by evolution to live this way. Evolving from primates we are physiologically much better off regularly exercising our monkey bodies. Not to mention the psychological ramifications of visually ingesting so much information, usually about click bait inspired emotive things. Getting riled up over stuff and stuffing your face at the same time is a calamity waiting to happen. Heart attacks and strokes come to mind.
Chew More Fibre & Green Leafy Vegetables
Recent biological data about our microbiome and the best thing for it to consume strongly suggest that consumption of more green leafy vegetables and fibre, more generally, is the way to go. The epidemic-like levels of diseases related to inflammation within our bodies and their systems could all benefit from a better diet.
Conditions like Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Depression and Arthritis are all related to inflammatory symptoms. The bacteria in our intestines are best served by fibre. There is strong correlating evidence showing the link between our brains and guts – the gut brain axis is very real.
Diets high in processed foods containing lots of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates are making many of us very sick. Too many people in the West consume this kind of diet with sugary soft drinks, alcohol, and very little real fibre. The good bacteria in the gut gets replaced by bad bacteria that feeds on this kind of stuff.
Combine this with lack of exercise, stress at work, staring at screens all day and night – and is it any wonder that we have record volumes of depressed, obese, diabetic, and cancer-riddled human beings.
Microbiome matters and we are learning a great deal about our optimal health from such base concerns. We are what we eat!
What Conclusions Can We Draw?
I think that there is a perpetual battle going on, like that between good and evil, but this one is between the forces of convenience and diligence. Perhaps, they are mere masks worn by evil and good, but that strikes me as overly Manichean.
The human love affair with technology promotes making things easier whilst our physiologies demand more painstaking diligent behaviour for optimal healthy outcomes. Kids and some adults find the act of chewing their food to be boring and time consuming.
Walking places is considered similarly in the modern era by many of us. However, both these things are better for our health than gobbling down tucker and driving everywhere. Who will win out ultimately? At the moment, convenience seems to be winning hands down in the form of smart phones, screen-life, and fast foods.
Perhaps, we need to chew on that fact and think again when it comes to the health of the nation.
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