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Movies 'make you eat more snacks'

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Viewing choice has a direct effect on the amount of snacks people consume in front of the TV.

Viewing choice has a direct effect on the amount of snacks people consume in front of the TV.

Viewing choice has a direct effect on the amount of snacks people consume in front of the TV.

Your viewing choice has a direct effect on the amount of snacks you'll consume while slobbing in front of the TV - or so says a new study.

Volunteers taking part in an experiment gobbled twice as many snacks while glued to a fast-paced action thriller than when they were entertained by celebrities being interviewed.

Watching movies and eating snacks - where do we sign up?

The 94 lucky students taking part in the study were allowed to snack on M&M sweets, biscuits, carrots and grapes while watching TV for 20 minutes.

A third of the volunteers were shown part of the sci-fi action movie The Island, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.

Another third viewed the same movie excerpt with no sound, while the remainder watched the Charlie Rose Show, a popular American chat show.

What were the results?

Professor Brian Wansink, director of Cornell's Food & Brand Laboratory in New York, said: "People who were watching The Island ate almost twice as many snacks - 98% more than those watching the talk show.

"Even those watching The Island without sound ate 36% more."

Despite all being offered the same snacks, volunteers watching the action movie also consumed more calories - 354 compared with 215 for participants screened the chat show.

And how have the experts explained this phenomenon?

"More stimulating programmes that are fast paced, include many camera cuts, really draw you in and distract you from what you are eating," explained lead researcher Dr Aner Tal. "They can make you eat more because you're paying less attention to how much you are putting in your mouth.

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

So should weight-watchers just avoid action flicks all together?

Planning your TV snacking in advance might be one way to avoid the risk of over-eating during an edge-of-the-seat chase scene, say the scientists.

They suggest pre-plating or pre-portioning TV snacks instead of bringing out a whole bag of crisps or biscuits.

Ensuring that only healthy foods are available might even put a positive slant on TV snacking, the researchers add.

"The good news is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that's what's in front of them," said Prof Wansink.

PA Media