We all know how easy it is to devour a whole packet of chips in front of the TV without even realising it. Most likely, none of us are surprised by studies that have linked television watching with mindless eating. Research has consistently shown that watching TV can distract us, reducing our awareness of food consumption – which explains why that pizza disappeared while you were engrossed in the footy, without you even remembering what it tasted like.
But did you know that what you watch might be influencing how much you eat? New research from Cornell University suggests it does, finding that fast-moving, stimulating content leads to more mindless overeating. “The more distracting a TV show, the less attention people appear to pay to eating, and the more they eat,” the researchers concluded.
For the study, participants were provided with generous amounts of snacks and randomly assigned to watch one of three programs, each with vastly different levels of visual and auditory stimulation – an excerpt of the action movie The Island, a PBS documentary program hosted by Charlie Rose, or the same section of The Island shown without sound.
The result? The more stimulating the program, the more snacks were eaten. Those who watched the action movie with sound ate nearly twice as much as those who watched the documentary. Even watching the silent version of The Island lead to participants eating 36% more food than those watching Charlie Rose.