Lunch at Desk is Bad for Your Health

Jan 04, 2011

Millions of workers worldwide work through lunch, and if they're not working, they're probably playing computer games or watching online videos. A new study shows, though, that being distracted during lunch can increase food intake later in the day.

Researchers from the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol in England recently assessed the effect of eating while playing a computer game. Participants were split into two groups. One group ate a lunch that comprised nine different foods while playing solitaire on a computer. The second group ate the same lunch, but without a distraction.

The researchers found that participants who played solitaire online felt less full after lunch, and the effects of distraction were long lasting. Thirty minutes later, the distracted participants ate almost twice as many snacks as did non-distracted participants. Finally, at the end of the test session, the participants tried to remember the food items that they had been given for lunch. Distracted participants had a poorer memory.

These findings together illustrate an important role for memory of recent eating, and they show that distraction can lead to increased food intake later in the day.

Similar observations previously have been made in people who eat while watching TV. This newstudy extends these findings by showing how other screen-time activities can influence food intake in unexpected ways. This is important, because it reveals another mechanism by which sedentary screen-time activities might promote obesity.

"This work adds to mounting evidence from our lab and others that cognition, and memory and attention in particular, play a role in governing appetite and meal size in humans," said Dr. Jeff Brunstrom, one of the authors of the study. 

(Story materials provided by the University of Bristol.)

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