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Can technology distraction reduce food intake?
So far, it has been thought that mealtime distraction leads to increased food intake. The distraction from technology seems to actually affect the amount of calories consumed at mealtime, according to a recent study. However, by using technology properly, we can even reduce food intake.
The University of Illinois recent research found that eating meals while using a simple computer game resulted in lower food intake. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Nutrition".
Participants ate less food through computer games
119 young adults were asked to eat a meal for 15 minutes while studying a simple computer game. This made the participants eat less food than eating the same meal without distraction.
What kind of game is Rapid Visual Information Processing?
Participants' food consumption was assessed on two different occasions: one day when they used the game while eating and another day when they ate without distraction. The game, called Rapid Visual Information Processing, tests permanent visual attention and working memory and has been used extensively to evaluate problems such as Alzheimer's and Attention Deficit Disorder.
What did you have to do in the game?
The game randomly displays a series of digits on the computer screen at a rate of one digit per second. If three consecutive odd numbers are displayed, participants should press a key. "It's fairly simple, but distracting enough that you really have to watch it to make sure you don't miss a number and keep track of things mentally," said study author Carli A. Liguori of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in one Press release.
The participants had initially fasted for ten hours before carrying out the experiment. Then they were instructed to consume as much of ten miniature quiches as they wanted. They either spent 15 minutes on the computer game or ate 15 minutes in peace and without distraction. After a 30-minute rest period, the participants completed a survey to remember how many quiches they had received and how many they had consumed. They also rated how much they had enjoyed the meal, as well as their feeling of hunger and satiety.
Participants ate less
The researchers assumed that if people were to eat while using the computer game, they would eat more food and enjoy their food less. Instead, it was found that the participants ate less when distracted by the computer game and the food memory was less accurate.
Food consumption changed
The food consumption of the participants on their second visit was influenced by the activity they had carried out on their first visit. The people who had consumed food on their first visit while distracted ate significantly less than the participants who only experienced the state of distracted eating on their second visit. The distraction on their first visit really seemed to change the amount they consumed while eating undisturbed.
Senseless eating or distracted eating?
The researchers believe that senseless eating can occur if we eat without intending to. For example, if we take a handful of sweets in the office or start eating chips because they happen to be in front of us. Conversely, distracted eating can occur when we do a side activity such as watching TV or answering emails while eating on purpose.
More research is needed
The results suggest that there could be a difference between distracted eating and senseless eating. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the researchers hypothesized that there could be significantly different behaviors with nuances that need further investigation. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Carli A Liguori, Cassandra J Nikolaus, Sharon M Nickols-Richardson: Cognitive Distraction at Mealtime Decreases Amount Consumed in Healthy Young Adults: A Randomized Crossover Exploratory Study, in Journal of Nutrition (Published Feb 14, 2020), Journal of Nutrition
- Using technology during mealtime may decrease food intake, study finds, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Published 03/06/2020), Journal of Nutrition