Action films, TV distract viewers from portion control

By Laura Mize • Published: December 30th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Your sweetie suggests a movie night at home because the weather outside is frightful and turns on the action movie he’s been dying to see.

With some guilty pleasures — a bag of greasy potato chips and a tub of onion dip — the two of you settle in for a quiet evening at home. But his movie selection is anything but quiet, and it has you both on the edge of your seat.

Twenty minutes into the flick, you look down and your bag of chips is empty. Did the two of you really just polish off all those crunchy calories so fast?

Researchers from Cornell University would say devouring all that food during the high-action flick isn’t surprising. Results of one of their recent studies show people tend to eat more during action-packed television shows, perhaps because they are so distracted by what’s on the screen.

Study participants watching an interview show for 20 minutes ate 98 percent fewer grams of food than those who viewed a fast-paced science fiction film with sound. Watching the movie without sound reduced the extra calorie intake a little, but still resulted in participants eating about 36 percent more grams of food than the interview watchers.

The scientists point to action programming’s loud sounds and frequent changes in visuals — when the camera cuts from one perspective to another — as the chief distractors. The interview show that some study participants watched had more than five times fewer camera cuts and almost eight times fewer sound changes per minute.

So, if you’re jonesing for a comfy night of snacking by TV light, do yourself a favor: Pick a quieter, slow-paced film or show so you don’t lose track of how much you’re gobbling. Or, go for the action movie and opt for carrot sticks with bean dip instead of chili-cheese fries. Then, you’ll at least be stocking up on healthful nutrients rather than carbs and fat.