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Note to video gamers: avoid buffets

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Note to video gamers: avoid buffets

Video gaming is linked to obesity. New research shows video gamers eat more than those who just sit; it’s the eating, not just the sitting that packs on pounds.

We’ve all heard about the studies linking sedentary behaviour to obesity. But a recent study has found that video gamers actually consume more calories than people who simply sit and do nothing, thus linking the eating to weight gain and not the inactivity itself.

The study participants—22 teenagers—either simply rested or actively participated in individual video games. After an hour of each activity the participants were offered an open buffet during which researchers compared their eating habits.

On average, the gamers took in 163 more calories. When the teens spent an hour seated and resting, they burned about the same amount of calories as when they played seated video games.

According to researcher, University of Ottawa professor Jean-Philippe Chaput, “We observed that participants ate significantly more after video gaming. Video gaming is worse than [just] being a sedentary activity.”

“When we think about how most youth can play videogames for several hours a day and how our data is based on after just one hour of play, we can conclude that our figures are actually pretty conservative,” says Professor Chaput, who is also junior research chair of the CHEO Research Institute’s Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Program.

“As well, in real life, many play with their friends, unlike in our study. And we know that we eat more in a group.” So Chaput believes that “real-life” figures are likely higher than those established in his report.

“The increase in food intake associated with video game play was observed without increased sensations of hunger and was not compensated for during the rest of the day,” the authors wrote in the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It is the mental stress caused by the video game playing that causes the increase in calorie consumption, according to Chaput. “When the brain is in this state, it sends a message to the body ordering it to consume more to make up for this stress episode,” he explains.

It’s fascinating research, but it’s bad news for government policy makers who now have to deal with the question: how do you separate the gamer from his Cheeotos?

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