02/09/2014 11:52 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 11:59 BST

Why Watching Action Films Make You Snack More

If, like me, you're considering going to see Lucy at the cinema this weekend then you might want to consider taking a detour away from the popcorn counter.

The reason? Action movies make you snack more.

New research has shown that viewing choice has a direct effect on the amount of snacks people consume when watching a film or TV show.

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A study found that volunteers gobbled twice as much while glued to a fast-paced action thriller than when they were entertained by celebrities being interviewed.

Lead researcher Dr Aner Tal, from Cornell University in the US, said: "We find that if you're watching an action movie while snacking your mouth will see more action too.

"In other words, the more distracting the programme is the more you will eat."

The 94 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.


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Co-author 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.

"More stimulating programmes that are fast paced, include many camera cuts, really draw you in and distract you from what you are eating," Dr Tal added. "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."

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The findings appear in the latest edition of the American Medical Association journal Internal Medicine.

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.