Video game use may affect health in young men

Roshini Claire Anthony
18 Aug 2020
Video game use up, health down?

Increased video game use may be linked to poorer dietary habits and reduced physical activity in college-aged men, according to a study presented at Nutrition 2020 Live Online.

This study involved 1,201 male college students aged 18–24 years attending the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, US, who participated in the College Health and Nutrition Assessment Survey in 2012–2018. Data on diet and nutrition were ascertained through 3-day food diaries and physical activity through pedometer-recorded average number of steps per day. A total of 1,095 men were included in the diet analysis, 1,060 in the body fat percentage analysis, and 786 in the body mass index (BMI)/iliac crest waist circumference (WC) analysis. Self-reported use of video games (hours/day) was categorized as non-use (30.5 percent), moderate game use (<1 hour/day; 39.4 percent), and high game use (1 hour/day; 30.1 percent).

Individuals with moderate or high game use had a significantly higher intake of saturated fat compared with non-users (30.1 and 29.9 g vs 28.2 g; p<0.002 and p<0.02, respectively) as well as lower fruit and vegetable consumption vs non-users (2.96 and 3.01 cups vs 3.43 cups; p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). [Nutrition 2020 Live Online, abstract P20-051-20]

Compared with non-users, moderate game users had a higher intake of sodium (3,957 vs 3,701 mg; p<0.001), while individuals with high video game use had a higher intake of discretionary (empty) calories (759 vs 693 kcal; p<0.003).

There was no difference in BMI, body fat percentage, or WC between the varying levels of video game use (BMI: 24.2, 24.5, and 24.5 kg/m2 in non-users, moderate, and high video game users, respectively; body fat percentage: 16.6, 16.9, and 17.0 percent, respectively; iliac WC: 82.4, 84.2, and 84 cm, respectively). Intake of total dietary fat, sugar, or alcohol also did not differ between groups.

Individuals with moderate or high levels of video game use had lower levels of physical activity compared with non-users (9,677 and 8,422 steps/day vs 10,037 steps/day).

“The video game industry is continuing to grow at a fast pace and more people are playing than ever,” said study author Dustin Moore, a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire.

“It’s important to understand that video games are a risk factor for poor lifestyle habits that may contribute to poor health.” The sedentary activity associated with playing video games may lead to, among other outcomes, weight gain and chronic disease. “In addition, advertisements and mindless eating may contribute to the consumption of foods of low nutritional quality,” he said.

“If the findings of our study are indicative of the general population, increases in video game usage could translate to increases in overweight/obesity and chronic disease in the general population, which is already a big issue.”

“Video game usage associations with diet in college men may allow for future education in university settings. With these novel results, universities … can enact more focused educational campaigns … to increase nutrition literacy and healthy eating.”

“We know that habits developed in adolescence and early adulthood can stick with people for the rest of their lives, so if we can encourage video game users to eat healthier and exercise more, we could help them live healthier without completely giving up video games,” Moore pointed out.

Due to the cross-sectional study design, reverse causation cannot be ruled out, said Moore and co-authors. Furthermore, the generalizability of these findings in a non-male, non-college population remains to be seen. 


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