More action in a television program makes people eat more in an emotional and subconscious response to the content of the television program. This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by Dr. Aner Tal, Brian Wansink, and colleagues at Cornell University. The research was published in the Sept. 1, 2014, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.
Several previous studies have indicated that watching television or excessive viewing of television was a factor in the obesity epidemic in the United States. This is the first research that quantifies the content factor of television with eating habits that can lead to obesity. The researchers found that the more distracting a television program is the more a person will eat in an unconscious response to the content of the program. Excessive eating was predicated on the person deciding to eat while watching television.
The study involved 94 participants. The participants watched an action movie and a talk show while eating. The participants were given a choice of eating fruit or high-sugar content foods while watching a 20 minute snippet of each program. The action film increased eating by 98 percent versus the talk show. Participants that watched the action movie without sound ate 36 more. The action movie increased calorie consumption by 146 percent.
The researchers conclude that action movies produce more eating because the distraction of the action movie prevents people from paying attention to how much they are eating. The suggested solution is planning television snacks by placing small portions in separate containers before watching television. A second suggestion is substituting fruit and healthier foods for high-sugar foods. Turning off the television and going outside to exercise is a third possibility that was not suggested by the study.