Thursday, October 24, 2013

Diet I.Q.

"DIETS don’t just reduce weight, they can reduce mental capacity. In other words, dieting can make you dumber.

Understanding why this is the case can illuminate a range of experiences, including something as far removed from voluntary calorie restriction as the ordeal of outright poverty.

Many diets also require constant calculations to determine calorie counts. All this clogs up the brain. Psychologists measure the impact of this clogging on various tasks: logical and spatial reasoning, self-control, problem solving, and absorption and retention of new information. Together these tasks measure “bandwidth,” the resource that underlies all higher-order mental activity. Inevitably, dieters do worse than nondieters on all these tasks; they have less bandwidth.

Bandwidth scarcity has far-reaching consequences, whether we are talking about poor farmers or affluent dieters. We all use bandwidth to make decisions at work, to resist the urge to yell at our children when they annoy us, or even to focus on a conversation during dinner or in a meeting. The diversity of these behaviors — combined with the size of the measurable effects — suggests a very different way to interpret the choices and behaviors of the poor. Just picture how distracting that cookie was, and multiply that experience by a factor of 10."

The Mental Strain of Making Do With Less - NYT

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