Video game playing boosts food intake, calories for teens

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Video game playing and food

In a rigorous study, investigators found teens who play video games eat more and consume more calories, compared to periods of rest.

Time spent in front of the computer, television and playing video games has been linked to rising rates of obesity among youth.

In the new study, researchers found an association between higher intake of food and more calories consumed in association with video gaming.

Studies have been unable to confirm playing video games actually causes teen obesity, though experts agree less time spent being physically active plays a role.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 18 percent of teens are obese. Rates of obesity among youth parallel video game playing.

Study hones in on higher calorie intake from video game playing

Danish and Canadian researchers tested the theory that video games lead to spontaneous eating in teens.

Shelley McGuire, PhD, American Society for Nutrition spokesperson said, "This study is an especially important piece of the scientific puzzle in this arena because it went beyond simply simultaneously documenting the relationship between video game playing and food intake in kids.”

For the investigation, researchers studied the same group of teens using two different experiments.


The researchers measured energy expenditure, appetite, feelings of hunger and how much food the teens ate during periods of rest and when playing video games in healthy, normal weight youth whose average age was 17.

During rest and video game playing, blood samples were obtained every 10 minutes. The study was performed in a research laboratory. Energy expenditure was measured with a calorimeter.

Afterwards, the teens were offered access to a spaghetti lunch. The scientists measured appetite, food intake, feelings of hunger and how satisfied the group was with the meal.

Calorie expenditure was higher during video game playing, compared to rest, as well as glucose levels. The researchers found no effect on the hormone ghrelin that signals hunger or on insulin.

Even though the study participants reported similar appetites, they consumed 80 more calories after playing video games than during rest, leaving them with more calories than energy expenditure for the day.

The study authors suggest though the findings are preliminary, it appears teens eat more after playing video games, even though their appetite and perceived hunger remained the same during the control period of the trial.

More studies are needed to determine the effect on weight gain and if video game playing contributes to obesity. Playing video games left teens with more calories taken in than needed for the amount of energy expended, that the authors say "was not compensated for during the rest of the day."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.110.008680
"Video game playing increases food intake in adolescents: a randomized crossover study"
Jean-Philippe Chaput et al

Image credit: Morguefile