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Why was Adele chewing gum at the Grammys?

Adele, while conquering the Grammy Awards on Sunday, was caught on camera chewing gum.
Adele, while conquering the Grammy Awards on Sunday, was caught on camera chewing gum.kevin winter/getty images/Getty Images

Before Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, the big question for Adele fans centered on the British star’s voice. How would she sound in her first public performance since throat surgery in Boston last November?

But during the Grammys, a second Adele-related question erupted, as camera shot after camera shot showed the new queen of pop chomping away on gum, even while accepting one of her awards on stage. Was she chewing for medicinal purposes, on doctor’s orders? Or was that just Adele being Adele, reminding us that she’s still just an unpolished 23-year-old.

Adele, etiquette mavens will be disappointed to learn, did not have a doctor’s note. “I never suggested it or prescribed it,’’ said her doctor, Steven Zeitels, who runs the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital. “She probably just likes gum.’’

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In fact, the only thing gum can do for you, said Thomas L. Carroll, director of the Center for Voice and Swallowing at Tufts Medical Center, is moisten your mouth and throat. “There is no correlation between chewing gum and recovering from anything vocally. It does give you more saliva, but it doesn’t increase your overall hydration.’’

Because swallowed saliva does not pass over the vocal cords directly, he explained, it does not moisten or lubricate them.

Even so, gum’s reputation is trending in the right direction. During Aztec times, chewing gum was the marker of a prostitute, said Jennifer Mathews, the author of “Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley.’’ In old movies, she said, heroes didn’t chew gum, only the villains.

But now gum has gone A-list. Sarah Jessica Parker, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman were spotted chewing at the Academy Awards in 2010. And with studies showing chewing can increase alertness, improve mood, increase cognitive function, it’s joined red wine and dark chocolate as guilty pleasures with benefits.

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Yet to be proven is whether it increases one’s chances of winning six Grammys.


Beth Teitell can be reached at bteitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.