Can Digital Multitasking Increase Overeating?

Study finds link between obesity and digital device overload.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Aug 20, 2019

You may want to review your digital device usage. New 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).

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

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