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Research Letter
September 1, 2014

Watch What You Eat: Action-Related Television Content Increases Food Intake

Author Affiliations
  • 1Food and Brand Lab, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • 2Department of Neurological Surgery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(11):1842-1843. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.4098

Television (TV) has generally been blamed for helping make Americans overweight1 owing to both its distracting influence and its encouragement of a sedentary lifestyle.2-4 Indeed, a recent correlational analysis5 of dinner patterns illustrated that the frequency of TV viewing during dinner was 1 of the 2 largest correlates of adult and child body mass index.

However, the focus to date has been on the medium and not the message. Granted, TV may lead distracted viewers to mindlessly eat past the point at which a person would usually stop. In this, it is not unlike other distracting activities that increase food intake, such as reading, listening to the radio, and interacting with dining companions.6 However, little is known about whether the content, valence, or pace of content influences how much a viewer eats while watching TV. For instance, how do objective technical characteristics, such as the frequency of visual camera cuts or the variation in sound, influence how much food is eaten?