New study shows correlation between video games and weight gain
Chaput and his collaborators invited 22 healthy, normal-weight boys between ages 15 and 19 into the lab. The night before the experiment, the boys were instructed not to eat. They arrived at 7:30 a.m. and were all given the exact same breakfast. At 10:30 a.m., they started playing the soccer game FIFA 09 on an Xbox 360 for one hour. Chaput then gave the participants a huge spaghetti lunch. The leftovers were weighed so that researchers could know how much they ate.
The boys usually ate more after gaming. In fact, they ate an average of 163 calories more. This may not sound like much compared to Health Canada’s recommendation of 2,450 calories daily, but these extra calories can have a long-term impact according to Chaput.
“Weight gain is just a small but chronic energy gap over time. Even a surplus of 50 calories per day on a chronic basis can lead to 10 kilograms of weight gain over 25 years,” he explains.
Chaput also wanted to know why boys eat more, so he took blood samples while they gamed. The samples told Chaput heart rates and blood pressure had gone up, but none of the hormones that trigger hunger were found in the work up.
“It seems that it’s more eating in the absence of hunger. Participants don’t feel [hungrier], but they eat more,” says Chaput.
“It’s not explained by the hormones that trigger hunger, so we think that it’s more related to the mental stress aspect of video gaming.”
Chaput’s findings are less than they would be in an outside setting because his subjects played alone, while kids tend to play with friends and usually eat more with others. Chaput also didn’t allow any eating during gaming and the boys played for only an hour.
Chaput also looked at males for a couple of reasons: First, they didn’t want to complicate things by having physical gender differences and “because there are more boys than girls playing video games,” says Chaput.
“Although I would like to know if it’s the same thing with girls,” he adds.
What are the next steps for Chaput’s research? Besides studying adults and interactive gaming, Chaput’s says his study is a warning and direct action is needed.
“Do we find this same pattern in adults? We don’t know … The next step is with active video gaming,” says Chaput. “Of course, we burn more calories when we’re playing this active gaming … but none of those studies have assessed energy intake.”
Chaput adds, “We need to have a better balance between physical work and mental work. We’re doing too much screen time and not enough physical activity.”