Your Computer Making You Fat?

How your computer is making you fat
September 5, 2012

Lots of things are making people fat — what we eat, how we eat and a lack of exercise. Now a report tries to tease out the precise effect of technology such as the TVs and computer screens that keep us sitting still instead of moving around.

It comes up with a surprisingly consistent statistic: For every 10 percent rise in what a country spends on information and communications technology, there’s a 1 percent increase in obesity rates.

Technology doesn’t just keep people in their chairs and on sofas, according to the report from the nonprofit Milken Institute. It changes the way people eat, also – adding even more pounds than the lack of exercise alone would.

It’s not all bad news. The report also points to programs being run by employers and by state and local governments that can help counteract the effect, from installing bike lanes to providing free, healthy snacks at the office.

“Many factors contribute to obesity. In our research, we controlled for several independent variables: physical activity, caloric intake and type of diet, growth of urban population, carbon-dioxide emissions, women in the labor force, alcohol consumption, and smoking,” economist Anusuya Chatterjee and Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute, write in their report. They found a 1 percentage point increase in the number of physically active people can prevent a 0.2 percentage point rise in obesity.

DeVol says the report tries to get past common wisdom and put some actual numbers on the effect. “Common sense says if you sit around in front of the screen, don’t exercise while you are working, change your diet…you are going to gain weight,” he said in a telephone interview.

“There’s been little cross-country work showing the connection is a causal fashion as opposed to common sense.”

Chatterjee and DeVol studied the economies and obesity rates for 1988–2009 in 27 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States. (Read Full Article)

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