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Can Digital Multitasking Increase Overeating?

Study finds link between obesity and digital device overload.

You may want to review your digital device usage. Research shows that people who mindlessly switch between a smartphone and a tablet or other digital devices are likely to have an increased susceptibility to food temptations and lack of self-control, potentially leading to weight gain. Researchers from three American universities conducted the inquiry to examine whether links exist between obesity and use of digital devices.

The study had two parts. In part one, an analysis of data from 132 adults ages 18–23 showed that those with high levels of multimedia multitasking and distractibility also had higher percentages of body fat.

In part two, 72 subjects were exposed to food cues while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (ãÆ-MRI). High media multitaskers had increased activity in the part of the brain dealing with food temptation during this procedure. Study authors concluded that media multitasking is associated with a higher risk for obesity and increased responsiveness to rewarding food stimuli.

The full study is in Brain Imaging and Behavior (2019; doi:10.1007/s11682-019-00056-0).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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