Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 20:59 GMT
Fidgeting fights the flab
The more you fidget, the thinner you'll be, if you overeat
Those annoying people who do not put on weight, no matter how much they eat, may achieve their slimming trick through extra fidgeting.
The scientist claim that encouraging fidgeting through "behavioural cues, may be a fruitful approach to the prevention of obesity".
"I doubt there is any possibility of acting on this component of energy expenditure regarding the prevention of obesity."
But even if the facility to fidget is simply a fortunate genetic quirk in some people, it is certainly effective.
"The originality of this study was to use state-of-the-art methods to assess all the different components of energy balance," says Dr Ravussin. "In that sense, the study was a "tour de force".
Fidgeting burns fat
On average 40% of the extra calories was piled on as fat, 33% burned off by subconscious fidgeting activities like shifting position in a chair. The rest was used in basic metabolic functions such as digesting the food.
The key factor, said Dr James Levine, the lead author of the study published in Science, was non-exercise activity thermogenesis (Neat) or fidgeting. "Those people who had the greatest increase in Neat gained the least fat, and vice versa.
Dr Michael Jensen also contributed to the study and noted: "When people overeat, Neat switches on in some people to "waste" this excess energy. Conversely, the failure to switch this on allows calories to be stored as fat".
Finally Dr Ravussin notes that it is ironic that storing extra energy as fat, rather than burning it off by fidgeting, would have been a great advantage during the famines or early humankind. "Today, however, it would be neat to understand just why some of us have more Neat than others."