Studies abound blaming television for the sedentary lifestyle that promotes obesity, but a new study from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab says weight gain might also be a question of what you watch.
"We find that if you're watching an action movie while snacking your mouth will see more action too!" says lead author Aner Tal, Ph.D. "In other words, the more distracting the program is the more you will eat."
Researchers recruited 94 undergraduates who happily munched on M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes during 20 minutes of screen time in which they were randomly assigned to watch part of the action movie "The Island" or talk show "The Charlie Rose Show" or a silent segment from "The Island."
Researchers say those who watched "The Island" ate 98% more than those who watched "The Charlie Rose Show," and even those who watched the silent segment ate 36% more.
Overall, those who watched "The Island" consumed an average of 354 calories and the group who viewed the silent version ate 314 calories. The talk show group's average caloric intake was just 215.
"More stimulating programs that are fast paced, include many camera cuts, really draw you in and distract you from what you are eating," says Dr. Tal. "They can make you eat more because you're paying less attention to how much you are putting in your mouth."
The research team advises pre-portioning snacks and selecting healthy fare which, according to their study, action movie viewers tended to enjoy.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.