Thinking Makes You Fat
You’d think with all the technological wonders being announced daily that somebody would come up with a Nutty Professor-like weight loss potion eventually. Likely “they” are working on it and are personally invested in it because “they” have likely gotten fat, too, thanks to the computer age.
The results of a preliminary study—these are for deciding whether something needs further, more wide scale testing—show that knowledge-based work, or work that is mentally taxing, contributes to obesity. While that sounds like it might be obvious—if you’re thinking and not moving, you’re not burning calories—the reasons cited in the study are not: When you have to think really hard, it screws up your insulin levels and you eat more.
It’s perfectly natural (sort of) that Michael Phelps consumes and burns 12,000 calories daily. Physical activity, anybody who’s done it knows, will make you hungry. You burn it off with more physical activity.
Knowledged-based activity, though, like sitting at a computer and performing tasks, also makes you hungry, but if your job involves sitting while you do that heavy thinking, there’s nothing to burn off the calories you might consume to assuage the hunger.
In short, thinking can make you fat because the brain relies on sugars to operate. Taxing the brain, then, sends out the signal more sugar is needed, hence what the researchers called “spontaneous energy intake” leading to fluctuating glucose and insulin levels.
That’s one explanation, anyway. The other is that mental work leads to the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that annoying woman on TV talked about after asking if you had too much fat on your belly and thighs.
The results of the study were published in Psychosomatic Magazine by several scholars, all with Ph.D. trailing behind their names. They grabbed a little more than a dozen women from Laval University (adjusting for menstrual cycles) and tested the effects of different tasks on their hunger levels. A couple of hours after breakfast, some were given the task to relax, others to summarize some text, and others to perform a challenging computer task. The scientists also took blood samples to analyze, and each student performed each of the tasks on three different days.
After the tasks, the students were given access to a buffet and their food intake was monitored. They found that the students who performed the summarizing task ate on average 848 kiloJoules more food than the students relaxing, and those who performed the challenging computer task ate 1057 kJ more.
Sigh. Thinking makes you fat. No wonder.
Just remember, though, this study was preliminary with a small sample of women.
This, coupled with that silly New York Times article about blogging leading to cardiac arrest should make you think twice about skipping out on exercise, which is still the only way to really combat it. It’s especially bad news in the wake of another discovery that carbs actually kill appetite control cells in the brain, making those older than 25 overeat.
You could say Atkins was right about carbs, but where will you get that sugar for thinking? I guess that settles it. Better hit the jogging trail, huh?