In experiments, they said, the heart rate of 46 people, aged 21 to 69, increased when they were given gum to chew while walking at a natural pace.

And while masticating caused a measurable physical difference in participants of both genders and across all age groups, it was most pronounced in men over 40, the team reported at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna.

“Combining exercise and gum chewing may be an effective way to manage weight,” the researchers said — particularly in countries such as Japan where walking is the “most widely performed movement”.