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You are how you eat

[ 2010-12-29 13:15]     字号 [] [] []  
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Eating with distractions such as a TV or computer screen causes you to eat more, not only at that meal but also the next, a new study suggests

Many of us eat lunch parked in front of a computer, but that habit might be boosting our appetite for dessert, a small study suggests. In a lab study of 44 men and women, researchers found that those who ate lunch while playing a computer game ended up eating more cookies 30 minutes later than those who'd had their lunch with no distractions. The reason? Researchers say the computer users had a fuzzier memory of their lunch and felt less full afterward compared with the computer-free lunch group.

This suggests, they say, that distractions like computers and TV muddy our memories of mealtime, which in turn may have real effects on appetite.

"We think that memory for recent meals influences the amount of food that we select and then consume at a subsequent meal," says researcher Jeffrey M. Brunstrom, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

Past research has suggested that people are prone to eat more when they dine in front of a TV instead of at the kitchen table - possibly because they are paying more attention to the screen than to what their stomachs are telling them.

"We know from several studies that distraction can increase the amount that people consume in a meal," Brunstrom says. "Here, we extend this finding to show that the effects of distraction last beyond a meal."

The study was, of course, conducted under controlled lab conditions. Whether the findings hold true in the real world - where many factors could affect what and how much we eat - is unknown.

Brunstrom says he and his colleagues plan to study that question in the future.

For now, Brunstrom says, "one implication is that we should avoid eating while distracted, which means eating away from our computer screens and TV sets".

And what about non-technological distractions, like having a conversation during dinner or reading the newspaper at breakfast?

There is some evidence they could thwart your diet, too. One lab study found that both eating while watching TV and eating with friends boosted calorie intake to a similar degree, versus eating distraction-free. Eating with strangers did not, however.

Another found that people ate more when they listened to a recorded story during their meal.

Still, Brunstrom and his colleagues say their findings are particularly relevant in today's technology-driven, "multi-tasking" world, where people are increasingly dining in front of a screen. And that includes children, they note; one US study found that up to a quarter of kids' calorie intake occurs in front of a TV.


(中国日报网英语点津 Julie 编辑)

You are how you eat

About the broadcaster:

You are how you eat

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.