Does eating in front of the computer make us eat more?

Do you, like so many others, eat your lunch in front of the computer? While it may seem harmless, this habit may in fact lead to an increased appetite for afternoon snacks.

Do you, like so many others, eat your lunch in front of the computer? While it may seem harmless, this habit may in fact lead to an increased appetite for afternoon snacks.

As part of a study involving 44 participants, researchers compared a group that ate lunch while playing solitaire on a computer, to another group that ate the same meal with no distractions. Thirty minutes later, both groups had a cookie taste-test in which they could sample as many treats as they wanted. The researchers also asked the participants to recall the nine items they’d eaten at lunch, and in which order they ate them.

The results show that the participants who ate in front of the computer downed roughly 250 calories’ worth of cookies, while their counterparts ate only half as much. The solitaire-playing group also had more difficulty remembering the order in which the menu items had been served and generally reported feeling less full after lunch than the participants who had no distraction during lunch.

The reason for this? The authors suggest that distractions such as the computer or television blur our memory of the meal, which affects our appetite over the next few hours.

These findings were obtained in a controlled setting and therefore may not necessarily apply to real life. However, several other studies had previously shown that mealtime distractions lead to an increased calorie intake. For example, people who eat in front of the television rather than at the table tend to eat more, probably because they are paying more attention to the show than to their stomach’s satiation signals.

It is therefore best to eat away from distractions such as the television or computer. Taking the time to relax and savour our meal is yet one more way to take care of ourselves!

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