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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Great News for Lazy People: Thinking Burns Calories !

Does the extra brainpower you use at work burn more energy than your Sunday spent watching Fixer Upper reruns?
“The basic answer is yes,” says Ewan McNay, an assistant professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Albany.
The brain—unlike any other part of the body—runs exclusively on the sugar glucose, and strenuous cognitive activities require more glucose than simple ones, says McNay, who has studied how the brain uses energy to perform work. During a difficult memorization task, for example, the parts of your brain involved in memory formation will start consuming more energy, but other brain areas will show no such increase.
“You will in fact burn more energy during an intense cognitive task than you would vegging out watching Oprah or whatever,” he says. But in the context of the average person’s overall energy expenditure, the difference in calorie burn from one mental task to another is a tiny amount, he adds.
To put cranial calorie burn in perspective, it helps to understand how your body burns energy. Unless you’re a professional athlete, most of the energy your body uses doesn’t have much to do with movement or exercise. A good-sized chunk—roughly 8% to 15%—goes toward digesting the stuff you swallow, while a much larger portion is required to power your organs and keep you alive and functioning. And no part of you demands more energy than your brain.
“As an energy-consumer, the brain is the most expensive organ we carry around with us,” says Dr. Marcus Raichle, a distinguished professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. While the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use, Raichle’s research has found.
That means during a typical day, a person uses about 320 calories just to think.
Different mental states and tasks can subtly affect the way the brain consumes energy. “If we were to put you in a scanner and we looked at what’s going on [in your brain] while in front of the TV or doing a crossword, your brain’s activity would change if we gave you a demanding task, and it would use more energy,” he says.
However, there could still be a calorie-burning upshot for people who spend their days performing mentally challenging work. Even if you’re only burning a small number of extra calories each day, that could, theoretically, add up to something meaningful over a period of 50 or 60 years, McNay says—so thinking things through is worth it.

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