We keep thinking we’ve reached the ultimate in silly studies … and we keep being wrong. Last week’s entry into the “no, really, how could they even publish this?” sweepstakes comes from the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Here’s the news report:
Researchers found the stress of thinking caused overeating with heavy thinkers seeking out more calories.
Note: more calories does not automatically equal overeating.
The research team, supervised by Dr Angelo Tremblay, measured the spontaneous food intake of 14 students after each of three tasks.
Wow! 14 students. Statistically significant? I don’t think so.
The first was relaxing in a sitting position, the second reading and summarizing a text, and finally completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer.
After 45 minutes at each activity, participants were invited to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet.
The researchers had already discovered that each session of intellectual work requires only three calories more than the rest period.
Dubious discovery, given information below.
However, despite the low energy cost of mental work, the students spontaneously consumed 203 more calories after summarizing a text and 253 more calories after the computer tests.
This represents a 23.6 per cent and 29.4 per cent increase, respectively, compared with the rest period.
Do we know how much they had eaten before? Was it a controlled amount? Do we know what size the students were? Whether they were eating enough after resting?
Blood samples taken before, during, and after each session revealed that intellectual work causes much bigger fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels than rest periods.
This is another way of saying that intellectual work uses more energy, i.e., uses more calories. So why do we believe the “only three calories” data given above? At least they didn’t draw specious conclusions about intellectual work and diabetes … yet.
And, of course, the article ends with a warning that our intellectual work may be bad for our health. (The inevitable conclusion here is that resting is good for our health … after all, anything that makes us eat less is good, right?)
Just in case you were thinking that this kind of idiocy is confined to the boundaries of the United States, the geniuses who thought up this particular study are in Quebec. You can bet that they haven’t been working their brains hard enough to work up an appetite!
There is light on the horizon, however. All this extra fat that we’re creating by thinking could be put to good use in gas tanks if it wasn’t for those pesky California laws. (Okay, yes, it’s gross. And terrifyingly easy to misuse. And at the same time, I can’t resist a grin when I think about it.)
Thanks to Aahz for being first with the thinking article, and also whoever pointed me to the lipofuel story.