TV_eat_more_S_web

TV dinners

There are film and television critics who argue that “genres” are just conventions made up by other critics. The idea of a genre is that the film or show in question fits contains certain elements that fit with other productions of that type. You can argue that genres don’t exist but the categorisation of certain actors suggests that film genres are a real entity. If I tell you that a film stars Jennifer Aniston or Bruce Willis or Adam Sandler you already have a fair idea of what is to come because you know the genre of films that those stars make. The question is does it really matter if a film can be classified as being part of a certain genre, or is that merely an academic pursuit? Well, according to a new study the genre of the film, or television show, does matter on a real biological level because it influences how much you will eat while you watch it.

Television has been linked to weight gain because it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, watching a film or a television show while you eat is a distraction from your task (eating) and this is also linked to consuming more kilojoules. These things are not disputed but what has not been studied is whether the genre of film or show that you watch has any influence on how much you eat, and therefore on weight gain.

In this new study researchers had people watch 20 minutes of television. The subjects were randomly assigned to watch either; an excerpt from the Hollywood action movie “The Island” starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, an excerpt from “The Island” with no sound, or the interview program “Charlie Rose”. The people were given carrots, grapes, biscuits, and M&Ms to snack on while they watched.

The results showed that the action film led to far more kilojoules being consumed than the interview program. Those watching the silent version of “The Island” consumed 46 per cent more kilojoules than those who watched the interviews (142.1 grams versus 104.3 grams) and those watching the full sound version of the film consumed a whopping 65 per cent more kilojoules than the interview show watchers (206.5 grams versus 104.3 grams).

Does this mean that Scarlett Johansson makes you fat? Is Ewan McGregor fuelling chocolate addiction? No, what it means is that the more distracting a film is the more you eat while watching it. Where an interview show may engage you a typical action film, with its lack of plot and spectacular special effects, will distract you. Who knows how rom-coms, sci-fi, crime, or historical drama will fit in relative to action films but at least this explains why movie theatres dare to sell “family size” buckets of popcorn.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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