People eat much more snack food while watching action films and programmes than something less exciting, according to the Cornell University researchers.
"We find that if you're watching an action movie while snacking, your mouth will see more action too," study author Aner Tal, of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said in a university news release.
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"In other words, the more distracting the programme is, the more you will eat."
The study included 94 undergraduate students who were provided with M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes while they watched 20 minutes of television. One-third of the participants watched a segment of the action movie "The Island" while another third watched the Charlie Rose show, and the final third watched the same segment of "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," study co-author Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said in the news release.
"Even those watching 'The Island' without sound ate 36 percent more," he added.
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Participants who watched the action movie also consumed more calories – 354 calories with sound and 314 without sound – than those who watched the interviewer Charlie Rose (215 calories).
"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," Tal said.
Before you watch an action movie, you should prepare limited portions of snacks instead of grabbing a whole bag of chips or box of cookies, the researchers suggested. Even better, stick to healthy snacks such as carrots.
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"The good news is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that's what's in front of them. Take advantage of this," Wansink said.
The study was published in the journal JAMA: Internal Medicine.
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