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Is your smartphone making you fat?

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Mindlessly switching from your smartphone to other media devices and back again might lead to added pounds, scientists say.

A small, new study found that heavy-duty media multitaskers also tended to be heavier, weight-wise.

Less self-control

It’s possible that these devices are actually changing the brain, theorised lead author Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Rice University in Houston. In terms of weight, that could mean less self-control when fattening foods are at hand.

For their study, Lopez and his colleagues had 132 students, aged 18 to 23, answer questions about how much they multitasked and how distractible they were. Certain questions – such as, do you feel the urge to check your phone while you’re talking to someone else? – were designed to detect compulsive or inappropriate cellphone use.

The researchers found that study participants with higher scores on the questionnaire tended to weigh more than those with lower scores, suggesting a possible link between the two.

Next, Lopez’s team had 72 of the students undergo an MRI brain scan while they were shown a serious of pictures. Images of delicious, fattening foods were mixed in with the images.

When the food images were viewed, activity increased in the part of the brain linked to food temptation, the findings showed.

These participants, who also tended to have more body fat, spent more time at campus cafeterias, the researchers said.

Mindfulness advisable

Of course the study cannot prove that multitasking makes a person fat, only that there seems to be an association. But Lopez believes the findings suggest a link between multitasking and obesity risk – the connection being the part of the brain that responds to temptation.

Noting that smartphones and tablets have only been around for about a decade, Lopez said it’s too soon to understand all the repercussions.

“We don’t know what the effects all these behaviours are having on how we respond to other aspects of our environment,” he said.

In future research, Lopez’ team hopes to learn if people with poor self-control are easily distracted by multimedia, or whether it’s that people who multitask electronically are likely to lose self-control over time.

At this point, “being mindful of multitasking is advisable,” Lopez said. “Being mindlessly pulled in different directions by these different devices is probably not good for us cognitively, and it may have effects on other behaviours.”

Distracted eating a peril

One expert said the study offers food for thought.

“What this study can’t tell us is what’s cause and what’s effect,” said Dr David Katz, director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

Do the same neurological predispositions favour media multitasking and overeating, Katz said, or does the activity alter the brain and foster obesity directly?

“This study raises concerns about the association, and invites us to ask more questions about the connection and answer them in subsequent studies,” Katz said.

“We have likely all heard that distracted eating is a peril for overeating, making bad choices and weight gain,” he added.

Eating more mindfully is a way of curbing temptation to eat too much or too many fattening foods, Katz believes.

The report was recently published online in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.

Image credit: iStock








 







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Three Geeks Rescue a 50-Year-Old IBM 360 Mainframe From an Abandoned Building

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In late April of 2019 Slashdot reader Adam Bradley and engineer Chris Blackburn were “sitting in a pub on a Monday night when Chris happened across a somewhat unusual eBay listing…”

They eventually submitted the winning bid for an IBM 360 Model 20 mainframe — €3,710 (about $4,141 USD) — and proceeded to pick it up from an abandoned building “in the backstreets of Nuremberg, Germany.” (Where they tackled several issues with a tiny door that hadn’t been opened since the 1970s.) By day Adam is a railway software engineer, but he’s also been involved in computer history for over a decade at The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley, England.

Along with engineer Peter Vaughan, the three are now blogging “the saga that unfurled…and how we eventually tackled the problems we discovered.” But after much beer, whisky, and Weiner Schnitzel, Adam assures us the story ends with a victory:
The machine will shortly be headed to the UK for a full restoration to working order. We’re planning to blog the entire process and hope some of you might be interested in reading more about it.

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The hidden lives of ‘housegirls’ in Kenya

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In Uganda, young women are leaving their homes to try and find jobs as domestic workers, but for some their new lives can lead to mistreatment and abuse.

A charity in Kenya is calling for the introduction of laws to protect domestic workers, commonly referred to as housegirls, to ensure their safety.

For BBC Africa Eye, reporter Nancy Kacungira has been investigating why young women living near Uganda’s border are leaving their villages to find work in Kenya.

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U.S. ambassador to China to make first visit to Tibet since 2013: report

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad was due to begin visiting Tibet on Sunday for official meetings and visits to religious and cultural sites, according to a news report on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks at an event to celebrate the re-introduction of American beef imports to China in Beijing, China June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

Branstad was scheduled to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, a historic region of Tibet known to Tibetans as Amdo, from Sunday to Saturday, Radio Free Asia said in a report.

The State Department did not immediately comment on the story.

Radio Free Asia said it would be the first visit to Tibet by a U.S. official since the U.S. Congress approved a law in December that requires the United States to deny visas to Chinese officials in charge of implementing policies that restrict access to Tibet for foreigners. The U.S. government is required to begin denying visas by the end of this year.

In December, China denounced the United States for passing the law, saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing “serious harm” to their relations.

Since then, tensions have been running high between the two countries over trade. China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course.

On Saturday, China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that recent U.S. words and actions had harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and that Washington should show restraint.

While the Trump administration has taken a tough stance towards China on trade and highlighted security rivalry with Beijing, the administration has so far not acted on congressional calls for it to impose sanctions on China’s former Communist Party chief in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, for the treatment of minority Muslims in Xinjiang province, where he is currently party chief. 

A State Department report in March said Chen had replicated in Xinjiang, policies similar to those credited with reducing opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet.

Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

Reporting by Nandita Bose and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler

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