Emotional eating: Sad or action-packed movies inspire more munching

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Emotional eating: Sad or action-packed movies inspire more munching

Related tags: Eating

Snack makers may get better traction by marketing to consumers who watch sad or action-packed movies and television than those who prefer comedies and talk shows, if the amount of food consumed by viewers in two recent studies is any indication. 

Recently published studies in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at Cornell University found that what people watched while eating influenced who much they ate.

Specifically, movie goers who watched the tragedy Love Story​ ate an average of 125 grams of popcorn – roughly 28% more than the average 98 grams consumed by people who watched the comedy Sweet Home Alabama​, according to a research letter​ published in the March 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine. 

The authors, Brian Wansink and Aner Tal of Cornell University, submitted the letter in response to a previous study they penned that was published in the same journal in November 2014, which found similar results.

In that study, Wansink, Tal and Scott Zuckerman, a medical doctor at Cornell University, found undergraduates who snacked on M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes while watching 20 minutes of television ate more snacks and more calories when they watched an action movie than when they watched a talk show.

Those who watched 20 minutes of the action film The Island ate 98% more snacks than those who watched the talk show the Charlie Rose Show. Even without sound, the action movie viewers ate 36% more than those who watched the talk show, according to the study​. 

“Watching scenes of an action movie may cause distress, a condition that can increase food intake in the absence of hunger,”​ or could be so engaging as to distract people from how much they eat, the authors hypothesize in the March research letter.

“In contrast, watching an engaging comedy clip has been linked with decreasing tiredness, sadness, irritation, anxiety and restlessness, while increasing relaxation and joy. Thus, watching a comedy clip may cause”​ positive stress, which “may reduce an individual’s concomitant drive to eat,”​ they add.

Related topics: Snacks, Healthy snacking, Confectionery, R&D

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