Its becoming a hobby of mine, spotting odd reasons for the obesity epidemic. Here’s the latest: don’t read the next bit too closely and certainly don’t analyse it
because the intellectual activity could be bad for your body weight. That’s what
a study in Psychosomatic Medicine suggests at first
The study compared groups of people doing three tasks requiring
different levels of intellectual effort: sitting doing nothing; reading and summarising a text; and completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer. Surprisingly they found that the
intellectually demanding tasks resulted in food overconsumption afterwards.
Given the level of consumption involved for one task (about 200 cals) I’m surprised
any of my editor colleagues are thin at all because we spend our time being intellectually active and one of the tasks, reading and summarising a text, is something we often do (now for example).
Reading on a bit in this paper, I think the real culprit is
revealed – stress. The people who were doing the intellectually active tasks
showed higher levels of cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’. Stress has
been shown to have links to obesity, but the relationship is complex as stress
appears to increase food intake in some situations and reduce it in others.
It would be interesting for the researchers to redo the
experiment with some non-stressful intellectual activities and some more
stressful ones to try and tease this one out.
In the meantime, to prevent yourself getting fat try to relax while being intellectually active or avoid intellectual activity. Not sure the latter would go down too well in my workplace.
Review on the subject from nutritionandfoodsciences.org:
between stress, eating behavior, and obesity. Torres,
S. J. , Nowson, C. A. ,Nutrition, 2007, Vol. 23, No. 11/12, pp. 887-894, 86 ref