10:13pm Saturday 23 September 2017

Do video games make us eat more?

A recent study by University of Ottawa professor Jean-Philippe Chaput shows a possible link between video games and weight gain among youth. Results of this important study were published in June in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A professor at the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Human Kinetics, Jean-Philippe Chaput wanted to study the influence of video games on the food consumption of 22 participating teens.  They were offered a buffet after an hour of individual play, and the data obtained on the number of calories ingested caused concern: young players consumed an average of 163 calories a day more than their counterparts who weren’t involved in this 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.

Professor Chaput attributes the increase in food consumption to the mental stress caused by video games. “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. In short, being into video games might be worse than doing nothing, as far as an individual’s weight gain goes.

Professor Chaput stresses the importance of government involvement in launching initiatives to counter weight gain from such activities. In a world where overeating is so easy compared with burning calories, new regulations and organizations need to be put in place.


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