An increasing amount of research shows an association between TV viewing and higher food consumption and a more sedentary lifestyle.
Now, a new Cornell University study points out that some TV programmes might lead people to eat twice as much as other programmes.
"We find that, the more distracting the programme is the more you will eat," said Aner Tal, lead author of the research.
In the study, 94 undergraduates snacked on M&Ms the colourful button-shaped candies, cookies, carrots and grapes while watching 20 minutes of television programming.
One third of the participants watched a segment of the action movie The Island, a 2005 American science fiction action thriller directed by Michael Bay, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.
One third watched a segment from the talk show, the Charlie Rose Show, and the remaining 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, Professor and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
"Even those watching ‘The Island’ without sound ate 36 percent more," said Wansink.
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 programmes 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, programmes that engage viewers more might wind up being worse for their diets, researchers said.
The researchers suggest pre-plating or pre-portioning TV snacks instead of bringing out a whole bag of chips or box of cookies can help people avoid overeating during their favourite chase scene.
Wansink notes that the best solution is to bring out the healthy munchable snacks, like carrots.
"The good news is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that's what's in front of them," said Wansink.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.

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