Can Twitter Make You Skinny?

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Could having many connections on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook cause you to lose more weight than, say, running on a treadmill? The answer is… maybe.

Research on mice showed that those individuals who socialized with other mice lost more weight than less social mice even when they ate more food. From the Daily Mail:

Keeping a busy social life amongst lots of friends may keep people slimmer than spending hours on a treadmill, according to scientists. They say that socialising and meeting with friends helps boost levels of ‘brown fat’ in the body which burns calories to generate heat. Living in a stimulating, social environment was found to reduce abdominal fat in mice by half over four weeks, even if they ate more…

Increased levels of brown fat may also be attributed to an increase in a brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF] found in the sociable mice.

There are two big caveats here. First, the research was done with mice, not humans. Rodent socialization may have different effects than, say, dropping by a bar for happy hour with your friends after work.

Second, although the scientists considered socializing to be the key factor, the experiment involved face to face (whisker to whisker?) socializing in a “stimulating” environment. While online socializing may have many of the same psychological effects as in-person contact, it’s entirely possible that the physiological effects are different. Face-to-face conversations involve more senses and likely engage the brain much more than exchanging tweets or commenting on someone’s wall. Indeed, the scientists cite computers as one way we avoid socializing (and exercise).

Still, it’s intriguing that socializing, even in person, seems to burn calories. If you thought slender people had more friends because they were seen as more attractive, you might be wrong; maybe their friends keep them slender!

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