Young women gain weight combining Internet, alcohol, and little sleep

Adolescent girls and young women were found by a U.S. study to put on extra weight when they recreationally use the Internet more than average, do not get enough sleep, and drink a lot of alcohol.

American medical researcher Catherine Berkey and colleagues from Harvard Medical School (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.), the Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.); and the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) led the research study based on the “Growing Up Today Study” (GUTS).

Their article “Weight Gain in Older Adolescent Females: The Internet, Sleep, Coffee, and Alcohol” appears online in The Journal of Pediatrics. Its authors are Catherine S. Berkey, Helaine R.H. Rockett, and Graham A. Colditz.

The objective of the study was to determine whether adolescent girls gained additional weight from the excessive use of the Internet, from insufficient sleep, and from the regular consumption of coffee and alcoholic beverages.

The researchers tested 5,036 girls from all fifty states of the United States between the ages of 14 and 21 years. The GUTS surveys were completed and returned to the researchers in 2001.

The surveys given to the young female subjects included typical activities during the past year on four exposures: (1) the recreational use of the Internet time, (2) amount of sleep, (3) consumption of caffeinated coffee, and (4) consumption of alcohol.

The researchers analyzed height and weight changes of the girls during a one-year period from 2000 to 2001, including body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height. They adjusted the statistics with respect to adolescent growth and development, activity and inactivity, and other related factors.

What did the researches find from the results of their study?

The researchers found that the weight of the girls, on average went up faster with increased recreational use of the Internet, with decreased amounts of sleep, and with increased amounts of alcohol.

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However, they also found that the weight of the girls was not affected—did not increase or decrease—when they drank coffee containing caffeine. In other words, coffee was found not to be a factor in weight gain or loss.

Specifically, they found that female subjects 18 years or old who slept five hours or less (on average) per night and who consumed two or more servings of alcohol per week gained more weight (in terms of BMI) than 18-year-or-older female subjects who slept eight hours per night and consumed less than two servings of alcohol per week.

In fact, the researchers found that the 18-year-old-or-older females gained, on average, four pounds (1.8 kilograms) over the one year-period when they did not get an adequate amount of sleep and when they drank more alcohol.

According to the abstract to their paper, the researchers concluded, “Older girls may benefit from replacing recreational Internet time with sleep and by avoiding alcohol.”

They also commented that, for example, a 19-year-old woman of average weight and height would gain 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) if she were in the high-risk groups for Internet use, sleep, and alcohol consumption.

They suggested that spending recreational hours on the internet contributes to weight gain by reducing time spent doing physical activity.

Other comments from the researchers included the likelihood that sleep deprivation may make women (and men) less active during the day because of feelings of tiredness. In addition, insufficient sleep may also affect hormones and metabolism so that weight is more likely to be increased.

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Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.