Chewing Gum Causes Migraine in Teenagers

February 17, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. migraine /ˈmaɪgreɪn/ (n.) – a very painful headache
Example: She had to be absent from school today because of migraine.

2. spearhead /ˈspɪərˌhɛd/ (v.) – to act as the leader of an activity
Example: The university’s award-winning scientist spearheaded the research. 

3. verify /ˈvɛrəˌfaɪ/ (v.) – to prove whether something is true or not
Example: To verify the hypothesis, the researchers conducted an experiment.

4. pick up /pɪk ʌp/ (v. phrase) – to continue doing what has been stopped
Example: He picked up smoking again after stopping for two months. 

5. malfunction /mælˈfʌŋkʃən/ (v.) – to not work properly
Example: He was rushed to the hospital because his heart malfunctioned.


Read the text below.
Scientists at the Meir [mey-EERMAHY-er] Medical Center in Israel have discovered that chewing a gum actually causes migraine.

The group of scientists, spearheaded by Dr. Nathan Watemberg, asked 30 teenage patients to quit chewing gum for a month. These patients were having chronic headaches and had the habit of chewing gum for an hour to six hours daily. The researchers then observed if the participants still experience severe migraine after the test.

After a month of not chewing gum, 19 of the 30 patients reported that their headaches disappeared entirely. Seven patients also said that the frequency and intensity of their headaches significantly decreased.  

To verify the conclusion, 20 of the patients were asked to pick up gum chewing for two weeks. All of the patients stated that the symptoms of migraine returned after only a few days.

Some studies claim that headache due to gum chewing is caused by aspartame [uh-SPAHR-teym, a-SPAHR-, AS-per-teym], the artificial sweetener often used in gum. However, this explanation was disproved by scientists. They say that gum maintains its flavor for only a short time, suggesting that gum does not have much aspartame. Thus, the possibility that the artificial sweetener causes headaches is unlikely.

Other studies also explain that gum chewing causes stress to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the part of the body where the jaw meets the skull. When the TMJ is stressed, it malfunctions and leads to headaches.

Today, about 87% of teenagers who often chew gum suffer from regular headaches. With the recent study’s discovery, doctors may no longer need to conduct additional tests or prescribe extra medication to cure the illness.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the conclusion that chewing a gum can cause headache? Why or why not?
·         How else can migraines be avoided? Explain.

Discussion B

·         Why do you think it is very difficult for some people to quit a habit like smoking and chewing gum?
·         How can one effectively quit a bad habit? Explain.


February 17, 2014