Individuals engaging in activities such as watching television or playing video games tend to eat more and consume greater amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat and saturated fat than when not taking part in such activities, according to findings published in Obesity.
“This behavior could contribute to weight gain if maintained over time. If you are watching your weight, avoid distractions like television or videos while eating,” Robin Tucker, PhD, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, told Endocrine Today. “Registered dietitians can add this information to their toolkit to help patients and clients reach their weight loss goals.”
Tucker and colleagues conducted a study based on self-reported eating and media consumption practices of 55 adults (mean age, 26.1 years; 75.9% women). During a 5-day process, participants took part in baseline and follow-up visits on days 1 and 5 and completed food diaries during their regular routines on the 3 days between visits. The diaries included entries on meal timing, types of food and drinks consumed and whether media was used during meals and the type of media interaction, including watching television, playing video games or spending time on a computer or smartphone.
The researchers found that participants ate while consuming some form of media during 17.9% of their meals. Media interaction occurred during 24.7% of what the researchers called main meals, which included the highest calorie-eating events before 11 a.m. (breakfast), between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (lunch) and between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. (dinner). Media was used during 5% of meals considered snacks, which were consumed between the primary meals.
Individuals engaging in activities such as watching television or playing video games tend to eat more and consume greater amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat and saturated fat than when not taking part in such activities.
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“The overwhelming majority of media use occurred with formal meals, particularly dinner, rather than snacks,” Tucker said. “That was a bit of a surprise, since snacks often get a bad rap for increasing obesity risk.”
Ordinary least squares regression revealed that meals eaten during media interaction were made up of a greater number of calories (b = 149.3 kcal; 95% CI, 39.6-259) than those eaten with no such interaction, according to the researchers. When compared with meals eaten during no media use, eating events that coincided with media interactions were made up of 17.6 more grams of carbohydrates (95% CI, 1-34.2), 6.5 more grams of fat (95% CI, 2.1-10.9), 6.1 more grams of protein (95% CI, 1.2-11) and 2.1 more grams of saturated fat (95% CI, 0.5-3.7).
“Our study is another piece of the obesity puzzle. The findings might seem obvious, but science is incremental,” Tucker told Endocrine Today. “Our approach improved on previous work by allowing our participants to go about their normal lives, select the foods and media they wanted to consume, and asking them to track their behaviors over several days in real-time. Much of the previous work on this topic has taken place in a laboratory rather than a real-world setting. With this information, nutrition professionals can advise patients and clients to avoid distractions while eating.” – by Phil Neuffer
Disclosures: Tucker reports speaking fees from PepsiCo and research funding from McCormick.