Study: Digital device multitasking can lead to obesity

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Switching between your digital devices such as your phone and the computer might increase your chances of gaining weight, a new study has found.

Although unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise contribute to obesity, a new study has found that media multitasking can also boost the risk of you gaining weight.

The study by researchers from Rice University in Texas was conducted on 132 people between the ages of 18 and 23 using an fMRI scan.

“Increased exposure to phones, tablets, and other portable devices has been one of the most significant changes to our environments in the past few decades, and this occurred during a period in which obesity rates also climbed in many places.  So, we wanted to conduct this research to determine whether links exists between obesity and abuse of digital devices — as captured by people’s tendency to engage in media multitasking,” said lead study author Richard Lopez.

When media multitaskers saw pictures of food, there was increased activity in the part of the brain dealing with food temptation. The researchers also found that higher multitasking participants were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and a greater percentage of body fat, suggesting a possible link.

“The simultaneous use of and switching between unrelated forms of digital media—is associated with an imbalance between regulatory processes and reward-related responses to appetitive food stimuli, resulting in a greater sensitivity to external food cues among high media multitaskers. This, in turn, may contribute to overeating and weight gain over time,” read an excerpt from the study.

Lopez said that although the results were preliminary, the link between media multitasking and obesity seemed to be strong.

“Such links are important to establish, given rising obesity rates and the prevalence of multimedia use in much of the modern world,” said Lopez.

​What do you make of the findings? Share with us in the comments section below.​

READ: Overweight children: How to get your child to eat healthy

 

Image courtesy of iStock/ patat