We know there are diet and fitness apps to help track health goals, but could your smartphone make you fat? Researchers found out…
You may love your smartphone, tablet and computer, but if your attention gets diverted in different directions by smartphones and other digital devices, take note: Media multitasking has now been linked to obesity.
This is according to new research from Rice University that found mindless switching between digital devices is associated with increased susceptibility to food temptations and lack of self-control, which may result in weight gain.
The rise of digital device use and obesity
“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,” says Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice and the study’s lead author.
“So, we wanted to conduct this research to determine whether links exist between obesity and abuse of digital devices – as captured by people’s tendency to engage in media multitasking.”
Media multitasking and BMI
The research was conducted in two parts. In the first study, 132 participants between the ages of 18 and 23 completed a questionnaire assessing their levels of media multitasking and distractibility.
This was done using a newly developed, 18-item Media Multitasking-Revised (MMT-R) scale. The MMT-R scale measures proactive behaviours of compulsive or inappropriate phone use (like feeling the urge to check your phone for messages while you’re talking to someone else) as well as more passive behaviours (like media-related distractions that interfere with your work).
The researchers found that higher MMT-R scores were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and a greater percentage of body fat, suggesting a possible link.
Media multitasking and food responses
In follow-up research, 72 participants from the prior study underwent an fMRI scan, during which the researchers measured brain activity while people were shown a series of images. Mixed in with a variety of unrelated photos were pictures of appetising but fattening foods.
When media multitaskers saw pictures of food, researchers observed increased activity in the part of the brain dealing with food temptation. These same study participants, who also had higher BMIs and more body fat, were also more likely to spend time around campus cafeterias.
Source: Rice University via www.sciencedaily.com
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