Fast-Paced Shows May Lead to More Snacking

Calorie counts and amount of food eaten higher in group watching action film than in group watching interview show

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Snacking during movie night is an American past time, and new research suggests that the type of movie could influence how much viewers eat.

The study measured how much food participants ate while watching a fast-paced action film, compared to a slow-paced interview program.

The researchers found that participants who watched the action program ate more, both in terms of grams of food and calories.

"Try eating individual portions instead of straight out of the bag."

"Television (TV) has generally been blamed for helping make Americans overweight owing to both its distracting influence and its encouragement of a sedentary lifestyle," explained the authors of this new study, which was led by Aner Tal, PhD, of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Dr. Tal and colleagues wanted to see whether the type of program viewers watched while eating might affect the amount of food consumed.

To do so, they observed 94 undergraduate students — 57 women and 37 men — who were separated into three groups. One group watched 20 minutes of a Hollywood action movie called "The Island," one group watched 20 minutes of an interview program called "Charlie Rose" and one group watched "The Island" with no sound.

Four snack foods were provided — M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes — and Dr. Tal and team observed how much each participant ate while watching the program.

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that participants who watched "The Island" ate 98 percent more grams of food than those who watched "Charlie Rose" — an average of 206.5 grams compared to 104.3 grams. These participants also ate 65 percent more calories — an average of 354.1 calories compared to 214.6 calories.

The participants who watched "The Island" with no sound ate more than the "Charlie Rose" group but less than the full-sound "The Island" group. This group consumed 142.1 grams of food and 314.5 calories.

Dr. Tal and team noted that "The Island" featured lots of camera cuts, sound variation and highly stimulating programming.

"The more distracting a TV show, the less attention people appear to pay to eating, and the more they eat," Dr. Tal and team wrote. "Other potential causes, such as increased anxiety, agitation, and stimulation level, should be examined as contributing causes in future research."

This study involved a fairly small number of participants, and, as the researchers suggested, further research is needed to understand why different types of programming might affect the amount of food eaten.

The study was published online Sept. 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Cornell University funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 31, 2014
Last Updated:
September 2, 2014