Video Gamers: The Overeating Defenders of the Universe

Filed under: In The News, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Nutrition: Teens

video gamers

Killing aliens makes a kid hungry. Credit: Corbis

Space aliens have invaded Earth, demanding we have their dress shirts cleaned and pressed by Tuesday or face the consequences.

Now, the only thing that stands between humanity and an irate call to the Intergalactic Better Business Bureau is ... a 15-year-old boy stuffing his face with Hostess Cupcakes.

Seriously, son, how can you expect to save the world from evil (if well-dressed) aliens if you can't even climb the stairs to your room without getting winded?

That's the problem with video gamers. They can wield swords and brandish ray guns with the best of them. On the computer. In the real word, they tend to be so out of shape they couldn't outrun a Torellian mud sloth (which, if they actually existed, would be reeeally slow).

The Reuters news service reports a new study finds teenage gamers (predominantly boys) eat more during one hour of defending Whozits on the planet Whatzit than they do during the rest of the day. And odds are they're not eating vegetables.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada looked at 22 teenage boys with normal weights. Saving the universe, apparently, requires food. And lots of it. Even when the kids weren't snarfing munchies while vanquishing ogres, they ate bigger lunches after playing pre-meal video games.

On average, researchers found, teenage gamers pack away 163 more calories on days spent with aliens, orgres, orcs, Mario and Luigi.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is hardly shocking news. Other studies have found a link between kids sitting in front of screens (computer or television) and bad eating habits.

However, lead researcher Jean-Philippe Chaput insists his video game study is unique. There may be something about video gaming itself that affects eating habits, he tells Reuters.

"We didn't see an increase in hunger," he tells the news service. Rather, he speculates, gaming creates a subtle "mental-stress effect" where eating food may satisfy the brain's need for a "reward."

"And most of the food we'd want would be sugary and fatty," he tells Reuters.

Teenage gamers like sugary and fatty foods? You don't have to be a 12th-level wizard to figure that out.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.