Is My Cell Phone Making Me Fat?

person holding cell phone in hand

First, we were told to avoid too much sugar, then trans fats and now… cell phones?

According to a growing amount of research, cell phone radiation is interfering with the way our bodies metabolize sugar, potentially leading to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and causing the associated weight gain.

Radiation and Metabolism

  • A 2013 summary in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health concluded that long-term exposure to mobile phones was associated with an increase in fasting blood glucose and serum insulin in albino rats, signaling prediabetes.
  • In 2018, the International Journal of Radiation Biology published a study that Wi-Fi radiation led to hyperglycemia (an excessive amount of blood sugar), increased oxidative stress, and impaired insulin secretion in rats.
  • In 2015, another study in the International Journal of Environmental Research for Public Health linked exposure to a nearby mobile phone base station (the same kind of radiation emitted by cell phones) to a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

While scientists are still trying to find out if cell phone radiation causes weight gain, there are other ways that our phones can lead to unhealthy habits that can cause the numbers on the scale to increase.

Break Those Bad Habits

1. Sedentary behavior: When we’re using our phones, we’re often sitting or lying down, generally being couch potatoes. Researchers say you’re 43% more likely to be obese if you spend more than 5 hours a day on your phone.

2. Poor fitness: According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition, frequent cell phone users are far more likely to ditch exercising and score lower on fitness assessments.

2. Poor sleep: The blue light coming from our phones can interfere with our sleep by suppressing melatonin, the hormone which helps regulate sleep. Even just one hour of blue light exposure can raise your blood sugar levels causing you to crave more sugar according to a Science Daily report.

3. Stress: Constantly checking our phones and responding to notifications can be stressful and lead to emotional eating and overeating. Think FOMO. There are hundreds of studies describing how our phones stress us out, as well as make us more prone to depression, anxiety and lower psychological well-being.

4. Unhealthy food choices: We’re more likely to mindlessly eat while we scroll, and social media and online ads can influence us to eat more fast food and processed snacks.

Due to the potential effects of radiofrequency radiation on blood glucose metabolism, and the known effects of creating unhealthy habits that lead to weight gain, it’s a good idea to try to reduce our phone usage and be more mindful of our habits. Here’s how:

Limit Your Exposure

1. Use speakerphone or headphones instead of holding your phone up to your ear. Wired headphones are the safest option, but if you’re using wireless earbuds, take them out when you’re not on a call to reduce your radiation exposure.

2. Keep your phone away from your body. Don’t put it in your pocket if you’re using headphones. Put it in your bag, purse, or on a table. The farther away from your body, the better.

3. Text more, talk less. Texting emits less radiation than talking on the phone, so keep those messages coming!

4. Call when you have a good signal. If you’re in an area with a poor signal, your phone has to work harder to connect to the cell tower, which means more radiation exposure. So, try to make calls when you have a strong signal.

5. Use airplane mode when you’re not using your phone. This can reduce your radiation exposure by up to 90%.

6. Limit your kid’s phone use. Children’s brains absorb more radiation than adults, so it’s best to limit their time on the phone. Health agencies in at least six countries even recommend it.

7. Don’t bother with most radiation shields. They can actually make things worse by forcing your phone to transmit with more energy. The exception is pouches that are only shielded on one side (the side facing your body) so the radiation can go through the side facing away from you.

8. Steer clear of pendants, phone stickers or any gadgets that claim to lower the radiation coming from your phone. Professional meters still read the same level of radiofrequency radiation coming from your phone with or without these items. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety.

9. Download your favorite shows and music to your phone and then switch it to airplane mode to watch or listen radiation-free.

While the long-term health effects of cell phone radiation are still being studied, it can’t hurt to take simple steps to reduce your exposure. By following these tips and staying informed about the latest research (on this website, for example!), you can stay connected while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.