By Chris Adams

Social media is blamed for a lot of things. Is it also a culprit in America’s obesity crisis?

Dr. Virend Somers, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, led National Press Foundation journalists through several recent breakthroughs in thinking about obesity. His discussion touched on the strengths and weaknesses of the commonly-cited body mass index (BMI) measurement, as well as the connection between “normal weight obesity” – those who have normal BMI but a high body-fat content – and cardiac disease. And he talked about the connection between lack of sleep and obesity.

Somers detailed how Americans are chronically short on sleep, in part because of the nighttime intrusions of social media. Overall, for example, two-thirds of Generation Y members and one-third of those from Generation X use a social networking site just before bed, likely cutting into their sleep time.

That has an impact. “The less sleep you get, the more likely you are to be obese,” he said. One controlled experiment, he added, found that modestly limiting a study participant’s sleep caused them to increase their calorie intake by 549 calories a day.