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Action-packed blockbusters are making you fat

Action-packed TV shows may be making you fat, according to a new report that found college students watching a blockbuster action flick ate more than those shown a talk-show program.

While TV has been blamed for helping make Americans overweight by encouraging the sedentary lifestyle of a couch potato, the new study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, investigated how different content affected how much people eat while watching.

Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor in ‘The Island’ directed by Michael Bay. (Doug Hyun/Dreamworks)

The experiment included 94 undergraduate students, split in three groups and randomly assigned to watch 20 minutes of either “The Island,” a science fiction action film starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, the exact same clip from that film but with the sound turned off, and the stalwart U.S. talk-show program “Charlie Rose.”

The more distracting program, “The Island,” was chosen for its high camera cuts and sounds variation,  making it a faster-paced viewing experience, one suspected factor that may affect viewers’ distraction level and rates of scoffing snacks.

The students were given M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes to munch on while watching, and the snacks were weighed before and after the program to ascertain how much viewers had eaten.

Students who watched “The Island” with sound ate 98 percent more food and 65 percent more calories than those who watched the apparently less appetizing “Charlie Rose.”

Even students who watched “The Island” without sound ate 36 percent more food and 46 percent more calories than those watching the talk-show host.

The researchers’ conclusion? If you watch distracting, action-packed television while eating your waist line is likely to expand, since the less attention paid to eating, the more you tend to eat.

So either change your movie-cave snack supplies to healthy options like carrots and grapes, or switch the channel from Scarlett Johansson to Charlie Rose.




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Fred Barbash · September 4, 2014

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