Is TV making you fat?

Could what you watch on TV be responsible for how much you snack? Researchers at Cornell University say yes.

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, 94 undergraduate students were equipped with four kinds of snacks (cookies, M&Ms carrots, grapes), and were observed watching 20 minutes of TV. One group watched the quintessential Hollywood action film, The Island on mute, another watched it with sound, and a third group watched PBS interview show Charlie Rose.

The study found that the students watching The Island consumed more calories, eating twice as much (98 per cent more grams of food) than the students who watched Charlie Rose. The watchers of The Island without sound fell between the two groups in terms of food consumed, meaning they still ate more than the Charlie Rose viewers.

So what does it all mean? The findings suggest how much you eat isn’t all about drama-enhancing fluctuations in sound or what genre you’re watching. Rather, it seems how much you munch is due to the number of scene cuts you see. The Island has a remarkably high number of editing cuts per minute, at 24.7, while Charlie Rose has only 4.8 cuts per minute.

Action films and movies with a lot of scene cuts are designed to distract us and prevent our brains engaging. The more distracted we are, the more likely we are to ignore now much we put into our mouths. Adversely, interview and informational programs aim to engage our brains and keep us thinking, so making us more aware of what and how much we eat.

Find out more about the study at MyFitnessPal.

Written by ameliath