Purpose: Artificial light at night (ALAN) may influence body mass via different mechanisms, including the suppression of the melatonin production by direct ALAN exposure, and by causing a shift in the food intake, due to activities enabled by ALAN. In the present paper, we attempt to separate these potential mechanisms by introducing measures of Internet and cellular phones use that reflect the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICT) in individual countries of the world.
Methods: In addition to ICT measures, our multivariate regression models link country-specific obesity rates with ambient ALAN levels, captured by satellite sensors, with per capita GDP, urbanization, birth rate, food consumption and regional differences.
Results: As the analysis reveals, in low-income countries, the number of cellular phone subscriptions emerged as a statistically significant predictor of obesity rates (t>2.386; P<0.05), while in the rest of the world countries, obesity was found positively related to ALAN (t>2.251; P<0.05), but not to Internet and cellular phone use (P>0.1).
Conclusion: We explain these differences by the fact that Internet and cellular phones are widely spread in low resource countries, and their use may become an effective circadian disruptor, despite relatively low ambient ALAN levels, attributed to limited economic resources available.
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