Everyone knows that unhealthy eating can increase obesity risk, but a new study suggests that this risk is also affected by your viewing habits.
Researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University dug deeper into research showing an association between TV viewing and higher food consumption. The team looked at eating habits based on the content being viewed by study participants. These participants, consisting of 94 undergraduates, were given snacks including M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes.
Study subjects were then divided into three groups. One group was shown a clip of the 2005 action film “The Island” starring Ewan McGregor. Another group was shown the same clip, but without audio. The final group was shown a clip from the PBS talk show, “Charlie Rose.”
The study shows that the participants who watched “The Island” with audio ate 98 percent more snacks than those watching the talk show. Even subjects watching “The Island” without sound ate 36 percent more than those watching “Charlie Rose.” Researchers conclude that this is because fast-paced action sequences distract people and lead to overeating.
“We find that if you're watching an action movie while snacking your mouth will see more action too!” said study lead author Aner Tal. “In other words, the more distracting the program is the more you will eat.”
Tal continues, “More stimulating programs that are fast paced, include many camera cuts, really draw you in and distract you from what you are eating. They can make you eat more because you're paying less attention to how much you are putting in your mouth.”
Researchers note that “The Island” has 24.7 camera cuts per minute, and “Charlie Rose” has 4.8 camera cuts per minute.
But, fortunately, distracted viewers watching action movies don’t care what goes it their mouths. Study co-author Brian Wansink explains that “action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that's what's in front of them. Take advantage of this!"
This new study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Internal Medicine.