Is Michael Bay making you fat? Research links action flicks and junk food

If you just powered through a jumbo bag of popcorn without thinking twice about it, you may have been watching a mindless action movie.

The Island movie poster
Are you feeling a bit peckish? Warner Bros.

You have a bowl of candy, a bag of salty chips, a platter of vegetables, a 2-liter bottle of soda, and your choice of what to watch on television. If you're watching your waistline, then you might want to switch to PBS and avoid "The Expendables."

Researchers at Cornell conducted a study using 94 undergraduate students. The group was split into thirds. One-third watched 20 minutes of the 2005 explosion-filled Michael Bay action film "The Island." Another third watched "The Island" without sound. The lucky final third watched "Charlie Rose," the PBS show known for its intellectual interviews and almost complete lack of explosions and car chases.

A tempting array of snacks were available for each participant, including M&Ms chocolate candies and cookies, along with the healthier options of grapes and carrots. Viewers of "The Island" scarfed down an average of 354 calories. Viewers of "Charlie Rose" displayed considerably more restraint, downing an average of around 215 calories. Participants watching "The Island" with the sound off landed in the middle of the other two groups for calorie consumption with an average of 314.

The researchers published the study this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine. The study traces the increased food consumption to the distracting nature of the action film, which features a lot of cuts and sound fluctuations. Essentially, it encourages you to become a snack-food-eating zombie. The researchers also call for further investigation into whether or not anxiety, agitation, and stimulation levels may also play a part in over-snacking.

"When watching highly distracting content, it may be best to avoid snacking, or use preportioned snacks rather than snacking out of a large bowl or bag. If you want to have a huge bowl of snacks by the TV, be aware you might wind up mindlessly eating more than you'd planned, and make it a bowl of scrumptious baby carrots," Aner Tal, a co-author of the study, told the Cornell Chronicle.

Perhaps this study will spawn the Charlie Rose diet, where you can watch as much television as you like while you eat, so long as you only watch Charlie Rose.

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