Thursday, 11 Sep, 2008 Science

Too Much Thinking Can Make You Obese


A new study revealed that people may get fat if they think too much. Scientists at Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada, found that subjects overheated due to the stress of difficult mental tasks. The findings could be helpful in suggesting how contemporary life contributes to an obesity plague.

The team of researchers, headed by Dr Angelo Tremblay, estimated the spontaneous food intake of fourteen students after they underwent three assignments. Each task lasted for about 45 minutes.

The first assignments was relaxing in a sitting position, followed by reading and summarizing a specific text and the third task was to complete a series of tests on a computer, including test on memory, attention and watchfulness. After each assignment students were invited to the buffet to eat as much as they want.

Scientists managed to estimate that after each intellectual task participants ate only 3 calories more than during other periods. Nevertheless, though metal work consumed little energy, students impulsively consumed 203 calories more after the task where they needed to read and summarize a text (a 23.6 percent increase in comparison with the rest of the period) and 253 more calories after undergoing a computer test (a 29.4 percent increase in comparison with the rest of the period).

Researchers have taken blood samples before, during and after each session. The results from the blood tests have shown that intellectual work generates much larger fluctuations in both glucose and insulin levels than other periods.

The lead author of the research, Jean-Philippe Chaput, mentioned that such fluctuations may have been the result of stress of intellectual work or they may also be a sign of biological adaptation during glucose combustion. The body's response to these fluctuations is the stimulation of food intake to re-establish the balance of glucose, which represents the only fuel that the human brain uses.

"Caloric overcompensation following intellectual work, combined with the fact we are less physically active when doing intellectual tasks, could contribute to the obesity epidemic currently observed in industrialized countries. This is a factor that should not be ignored, considering that more and more people hold jobs of an intellectual nature," added Mr Chaput.

The study and its findings are published in Psychosomatic Medicine.


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