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Couch Potatoes Work Up An Appetite

Couch potatoes apparently work up a big appetite. That, at least, is what a new study suggests.

Barry Braun of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his colleagues studied six young, lean and fit men and women in three one-day experiments.

On one day the volunteers spent 12 hours being physically active, though not doing anything that could be called "exercise." Instead, they performed a series of highly scripted activities, including walking, sorting papers, picking up books and folding laundry. They were not allowed to sit for more than 10 minutes each hour. They ate about the same number of calories they expended.

On the other two days the volunteers were very inactive. They watched videos, worked on computers and were only allowed to move around by being pushed in a wheelchair. But in one of these sessions they were allowed to eat the same amount as in the previous scenario whereas in the second one their food intake was reduced to match their reduced activity.

Surprisingly, the volunteers reported feeling hungrier, having a greater desire to eat and feeling like they could eat more even after a meal in the couch potato scenarios than after the highly active session.

The results, being presented today at a meeting of the American Physiological Society in Hilton Head, S.C., indicate that being inactive somehow increases the perception of hunger and decreases the perception of fullness.

The reason for that remains unclear. But the researchers also measured the volunteers' levels of hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin, ghrelin and insulin. Although they have not yet analyzed that data, they expect to find that the levels of hormones that regulate hunger and a feeling of fullness will match what their volunteers reported.

How about you? Do you find yourself getting hungry when you're just sitting around?

By Rob Stein  |  September 25, 2008; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Obesity  
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Comments

How in the world is this a surprise to anyone? Whenever I am very busy doing yard work, or enjoying a very active vacation day, I am seldom hungry. When I sit at my desk all day at work I spend half my time thinking about food.
Every single person I work with and all of my family members have always said the same thing.

Posted by: DW | September 25, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps there's a delay between the energy expenditure and when the body feels hungry? Did the researchers perform this experiment in the reverse order...couch potato first, activity second?

Posted by: Wes | September 25, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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