Want To Stop Gaining Weight? Put Down Your Smartphone When You Eat, New Scientific Research Study Finds

A new study by scientists at Federal University in Brazil finds that looking at your phone during meals can cause weight gain.

A woman eats a sandwich.
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A new study by scientists at Federal University in Brazil finds that looking at your phone during meals can cause weight gain.

If you find yourself gaining weight, even though it feels as if you’re eating normal meals, a new research study published last week in the latest issue of the scientific journal Physiology and Behavior suggests a possible solution for this problem, based on new data compiled by the team of researchers divided between Brazil and the Netherlands.

The answer is simple: put down your smartphone.

In the research paper titled “Smartphone Use While Eating Increases Caloric Ingestion,” the scientists say that by studying 62 volunteer subjects, all between the ages of 18 and 28, they discovered that people who used their smartphone for any use, even just surfing the web or reading news, while consuming meals eat 15 percent more calories on average than diners who simply focused on their food.

The results also showed differences in calorie intake while using smartphones based on age and gender, with men who were in the older age range of the test subjects consuming more calories while on their phones than other groups among the volunteers.

People who were already classified as obese ate more than non-obese subjects while using smartphones during meals. All subjects were presented with a variety of food options ranging from “healthy” food to junk foods, such as soft drinks and sweets. On average, people who ate while on their smartphones consumed 591 calories at a sitting, according to a summary of the study by the Daily Mail.

Kid looks at iPad.
An earlier study found that kids who use smartphones and tablets are at greater risk of obesity. Supermao / Gett Images

But diners who refrained from getting on their phones during their meals consumed only 535 calories on average, according to the study. The obese subjects wolfed down 616 calories at a siting while using smartphones at mealtime. And all of the subjects consumed an average of 10 percent more fatty foods while on their phones, compared to those who dined phone-free.

The researchers also took into account the different “masticatory,” or chewing habits of each subject, to be sure that their caloric intake was not affected by how they chew and swallow their food.

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“Tablets and smartphones have become the main ‘distractors’ during meals, even early in childhood, so it is important to pay attention to how this may impact food choices,” said the study’s lead author, Márcio Gilberto Zangeronimoa of Brazil’s Federal University at Lavras, quoted by the Daily Mail. “A distractor prevents the brain correctly understanding the amount of food ingested.”

The researchers found that people who read magazines while eating also consumed more calories.

The results of the new study line up with earlier research linking smartphone use to weight gain. According to a 2016 study cited by WebMD, children who spent at least five hours per day on smartphones or tablets showed a 43 percent increase in their risk of developing childhood obesity.