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Overeating Linked to Viewing Specific Type of Television Program

Overeating Linked to Viewing Specific Type of Television Program

Emerging research suggests that not all TV is alike when it comes to overeating.

Cornell University researchers discovered that some TV programs might lead people to eat twice as much as other programs.

“We find that if you’re watching an action movie while snacking your mouth will see more action too,” said Aner Tal, Ph.D., lead author on the new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.

“In other words, the more distracting the program is, the more you will eat.”

In the study, conducted by researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, 94 undergraduates snacked on M&Ms, cookies, carrots, and grapes while watching 20 minutes of television programming.

A third of the participants watched a segment of the action movie “The Island,” a third watched a segment from the Charlie Rose talk show, and a third watched the same segment from “The Island” without sound.

“People who were watching ‘The Island’ ate almost twice as many snacks – 98 percent more than those watching the talk show!” said co-author Brian Wansink.

“Even those watching ‘The Island’ without sound ate 36 percent more.”

People watching the more distracting content also consumed more calories, with 354 calories consumed by those watching “The Island” (314 calories with no sound) compared to 215 calories consumed by those watching the Charlie Rose Show.

“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,” said Tal.

Because of this, programs that engage viewers more might wind up being worse for their diets.

So what can you do to avoid overeating during your favorite chase scene?

The researchers suggest pre-plating or pre-portioning your TV snacks instead of bringing out a whole bag of chips or box of cookies.

Wansink said that the best solution is to bring out the healthy munchable snacks, like carrots.

“The good news,” says Wansink “is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that’s what’s in front of them. Take advantage of this!”

Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Overeating Linked to Viewing Specific Type of Television Program

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Overeating Linked to Viewing Specific Type of Television Program. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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