In a new study, researchers found multitasking with digital devices is linked to obesity.
The finding suggests people don’t use their smartphones and other digital devices excessively, especially during eating.
The research was conducted by a team from Rice University.
During the past few decades, people have much more exposure to phones, tablets, and other portable devices.
At the same time, obesity rates increase in many places in the world.
Many people use their smartphones or tablets during eating their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it is unknown if the two things are connected.
In the study, the team examined 132 participants between the ages of 18 and 23 completed a questionnaire about their levels of media multitasking and distractibility.
They found that higher multitasking scores were linked to higher body mass index (BMI) and a greater percentage of body fat.
After that, they examined 72 participants with higher BMI and body fat with an fMRI scan.
They measured the brain activity of the participants while they were shown a series of images of unrelated photos and pictures of appetizing but fattening foods.
They found when media multitaskers saw pictures of food, there was increased activity in the part of the brain dealing with food temptation.
The findings suggest links between media multitasking and risk for obesity.
The team suggests that mindless switching between digital devices is linked to increased susceptibility to food temptations and lack of self-control.
Both may result in unwanted weight gain.
The finding is important for understanding rising obesity rates and the prevalence of multimedia use in much of the modern world.
The researchers hope the study will raise awareness of the issue and promote future work on the connection between multitasking with digital devices and obesity.
The lead author of the study is Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice.
The study is published in Brain Imaging and Behavior.
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