Violent or nervous movies have proven to be stressful and even exhausting. In order to comfort themselves, people tend to eat more snacks. However, people who watch romantic comedy or drama did not show the same emotional reaction. They did not eat as much chocolate or chips as the former.
Scientists say that intense movies can lead to “comfortable eating” to alleviate the stress caused by increased hormones. According to reports, this is the first study on how movies affect the food choices and appetites of the audience. Previous studies have found that violent video games are associated with increased appetite. The study shows that when watching a movie, the cause of weight gain is not just sitting still, but also related to the content on the movie screen.
The study was conducted at the Lebanese American University in New York, where 84 participants aged 20 to 30 participated in the experiment and were randomly assigned to watch a violent movie or a romantic comedy.
Prior to the study, the researchers performed a series of measurements on participants, including heart rate, blood pressure, and grip strength, and assessed their stress levels and appetite. While watching the movie, the researchers provided participants with a tray of snacks including popcorn, chips, biscuits, chocolate, candy, apples, orange juice and Pepsi.
Participants were told that they could eat whatever they wanted and were alone and unobserved during the viewing to ensure they were comfortable.
The results of the study showed that participants who watched violent movies scored higher in terms of tension, exhaustion, and sadness, but participants who watched romantic comedies did not differ in scores in these areas. According to the results published in the Journal of Dietary Behavior, there was no significant difference in appetite or hunger between the two groups compared to the beginning of the film. However, participants watching violent movies ate more during the movie, they ate an average of 6.45 foods, while participants who watched romantic comedy movies ate only 4.93.
“Our results show that although watching movies is a passive activity, violent movies still cause severe stress and nervous reactions to the audience,” said research author Dr. Rama Matar. “Compared with benchmark scores, Participants in the experimental group scored higher on the tension and fatigue scale, while those in the control group did not increase.”
In the experimental group of 42 participants, 62% ate more than two high-fat foods, and 71.4% ate more than two high-salt foods. There were no significant differences between the two groups in the intake of sugary foods.
According to the study, this result means weight gain and obesity associated with viewing time, not just for sedentary, associated with increased intake of high-calorie snacks. Why do violent movies make people eat more snacks? One possible explanation is that delicious foods suppress stressful reactions and promote positive emotions such as safety and well-being. This phenomenon is often referred to as “comfortable eating.”
“In order to alleviate the pressure from the film, participants watching violent movies may eat more high-fat and high-salt foods,” Dr. Matar said. In general, long-term stress in life “will also increase the preference for high-calorie and high-nutrient foods”, which are often referred to as “comfortable foods”.
The research paper writes: “On the other hand, some studies have shown that the unique sound stimulation and the rhythm of music in violent movies may also affect the choice and intake of food, and the audience will choose less healthy food.”
The study authors believe that their research highlights some key issues as the government tries to address childhood obesity. “Resolving this problem and its impact on children is necessary. This can be done through public health interventions to deal with film content,” the study authors write.
Previous studies have found that video games that require deep participation can affect heart rate, blood and cardiovascular health, and increase appetite compared to watching TV. However, a study by the University of South Australia found that the opposite is true for children, who have a greater impact on children’s weight than any other behavior.