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Videogames give kids the munchies

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Studies show that gamers who spend longer playing videogames tend to have a higher rate of obesity than more casual players. In fact, most gamers are fat and miserable. Apparently. But while an unhealthy Fifa 11 habit could be a rational explanation for a child's lack of exercise, several researchers now suggest gaming has a direct link to spontaneous food intake too.

Boffins took a group of healthy, average-sized teens and subjected them to a crossover intervention trial of two 1one-hour periods. Students rested in one period and played a sporty videogame in the other. Both periods occurred at 10.30am on separate days, following an overnight fast and a standardised 8am breakfast.

The report, Video game playing increases food intake in adolescents: a randomized crossover study, took blood samples every ten minutues and examined energy expenditure using indirect calorimetry. Each student was then offered a full spaghetti lunch, where food intake was assessed, along with hunger, satiety, fullness and appetite.

While subjects all reported similar appetite ratings regardless of the test conditions, medical examinations show a different story. Levels of glucose in the bloodstream increased more when playing videogames and energy expenditure was also higher. Subjects did eat 80kCal more after playing games though, so ended up with more overall energy during the day.

The researchers reckon this is preliminary evidence that male teens playing videogames for an hour, munch more calories in the short term than they do after resting for an hour. This occurs without any perceived increase in appetite.

The authors concluded more studies are needed though, to determine the long-term effects on weight gain and health, as well as the effect different genres such as violent or educational games have on a subject's desire to stuff themselves. ®

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