Rigorous study confirms video game playing increases food intake in teens

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 18% of US teens are obese. Although most experts agree that our growing obesity "epidemic" is driven by both inadequate physical activity and excessive caloric intake, implementing solutions is extraordinarily difficult. One area that has caught the attention of health researchers is the observation that trends in video game playing parallel obesity rates on a population basis. Furthermore, several studies have documented a positive association between how much time a child plays video games and his or her chance of being obese. However, correlation does not necessarily imply causality, and controlled intervention studies are required to test whether playing video games causes children to increase their food intake and/or decrease their energy expenditure. In the first such study of this kind, Canadian and Danish researchers tested their hypothesis that video game playing is accompanied by increased spontaneous food intake.

"This study is an especially important piece of the scientific puzzle in this arena because it went beyond simply simultaneously documenting the relationship between video game playing and food intake in kids," said Shelley McGuire, PhD, American Society for Nutrition spokesperson. "Instead, it actually studied the same group of children during two separate, experimentally-administered periods of rest and video-game play, and then used gold-standard methods to measure important outcomes such as food intake, , and feelings of hunger and appetite. Consequently, the results can be used with a high degree of confidence to suggest that playing virtual soccer can affect food intake. Very interesting! Given our current obesity "crisis" in kids, I will be curious to follow the results of follow-up studies. For instance, do or have the same effect as sports-related games?"

Healthy, normal-weight male teens (mean age: ~17 y) were studied in this crossover intervention trial consisting of two 1-h periods. In one period, subjects rested (control period); in the other, they played video games. For both study periods (which occurred at 10:30 AM), the youth reported to a research laboratory after an overnight fast and were provided with a standardized breakfast (8:00 AM). During the intervention periods, blood samples were collected every 10 min, and energy expenditure was assessed by using indirect calorimetry. Immediately thereafter, each participant was offered full access to a spaghetti lunch. and measurements of hunger, satiety, fullness, and appetite were assessed.

Blood glucose concentrations increased more when playing video games than during the control period, but there was no differential effect on insulin or ghrelin (a hormone thought to signal the sensation of hunger to the brain). Energy expenditure was 21 kcal/h higher during video than during the resting condition. However, subjects ate 80 more kilocalories after playing the video games than they did after the control period. This resulted in a net positive energy of 163 kcal during the entire day when video games were played compared with when subjects rested, despite the fact that the subjects reported similar appetite ratings during these periods.

The authors concluded that their results provide preliminary evidence that male teens playing video games for 1 h consume more calories in the short-term than they do after 1 h of rest. Moreover, overconsumption of food after occurs without changes in perceived hunger and appetite. Additional studies are needed to determine the long-term effects on weight gain and health.

Related Stories

Active video games a good alternative for kids

date Jul 16, 2009

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found that playing active video games can be as effective for children as moderate exercise. The findings appear this week in the journal ...

Video games shown to improve vision

date Mar 15, 2007

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored ...

Recommended for you

Soldiers cite 'Medic!' as a top hearing priority

date 1 hour ago

'Medic!', 'Hold fire!' and grid references are amongst the highest priorities for soldiers to be able to hear while on duty, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

date 2 hours ago

In Uganda, child mortality rates are improving, but progress is slower for deaths occurring in the first four weeks of life, or the newborn period, and for stillbirths. But recent evidence from local researchers ...

Should men cut back on their soy intake?

date 5 hours ago

Recently, a friend called my husband to inquire about the risks for men in consuming too much soy milk. He had read an article that described how one individual's plight led him down the path of breast enlargement, and was ...

Probing Question: What is umami?

date 5 hours ago

The next time you're at a dinner party and want to spice up the conversation, you might compliment the hosts on their umami-rich appetizers. Then wait a moment until someone invariably asks, "What's umami?"

Will the Affordable Care Act eliminate health disparities?

date 7 hours ago

Massachusetts' health reform may be a crystal ball for researchers and policymakers in forecasting the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act. Many see the ACA as the backbone of efforts toward closing the nation's health ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.