Could action-packed TV fare make you fat? That's the implication of a new study that found people snacked more watching fast-paced television than viewing a more leisurely paced talk show.
Cornell University researchers randomly assigned almost 100 undergraduates to watch one of three 20-minute sessions featuring one of The Island, a 2005 sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor; that same movie but without the sound; or Charlie Rose, a U.S. public television interview program.
The students were all provided generous amounts of cookies, M&M candies, carrots and grapes.
During The Island, students ate on average about 207 grams of various snack foods, totalling 354 calories. That was almost 140 calories more and nearly double the weight they ate watching interviewer Charlie Rose. Watching the movie without sound, they also ate more — almost 100 calories more — compared with Charlie Rose.
The faster paced TV seemed to distract viewers more, contributing to mindless eating, said Cornell researcher Aner Tal, the study's lead author. The results, published today in the American Medical Association's journal Internal Medicine, suggest that a steady diet of action TV could raise risks for packing on pounds.
But the study was small and didn't last long enough to measure any long-term effects on the students' weight. It's also possible some viewers would find talk shows or other slower-paced TV more distracting and would be more apt to snack more during those shows than when watching action-packed programs.
Tal suggests viewers take steps to prevent mindless snacking, by avoiding or limiting high-calorie snacks when watching TV.