And since chewing gum, even incessantly, requires less effort than exercising, it's not hard to see why this news would be welcome to some dieters. On the other hand, it's important to remember that 11 calories an hour is not really all that impressive when compared to other low-impact calorie-burning activities. For example, a 140-pound woman burns 111 calories walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. That sort of exertion, on a regular basis, could result in a hefty weight loss and would produce significantly less strain on relationships than a round-the-clock regimen of snapping, bubble-blowing and chewing.
Bad news for mothers of the world: If a new diet concept holds up to scrutiny, it could mean a rash of noisy and vigorous gum chewing. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic measured the energy expenditure of masticating test subjects and found that chewing sugarless gum burns about 11 calories an hour an initially meager loss that could nevertheless manifest itself as a more significant 11 pounds a year. Of course, that's only if the chewing is constant over the course of the day, which is defined distressingly as "every waking hour," or about 12 hours per day. Study participants were timed with a metronome in order to establish a uniform chewing rate. "Every little bit helps, I guess," says TIME senior science reporter Alice Park. "But probably the most important weight-loss aspect of gum chewing is that you have something in your mouth all the time, so you can't eat anything."