Playing games while eating may decrease food intake
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Playing games while eating may decrease food intake

Mindless eating may occur when we eat without intending to do so, the researchers said.

Dear Parents, please take note. Researchers have found thatbeing distracted by technology during mealtimes may decrease the amount of fooda person eats.

"When 119 young adults consumed a meal while playing asimple computer game for 15 minutes, they ate significantly less than when theyate the same meal without distractions, said study lead author Carli A Liguorifrom University of Illinois in the US.

According to the study, published in the Journal ofNutrition, Participants' food consumption was evaluated on two separate occasions– one day when they played the game while eating and on another day when theyate without distractions.

The game, called Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVIP),tests users' visual sustained attention and working memory and has been usedextensively by researchers in evaluating people for problems such asAlzheimer's disease and attention-deficit disorder.

The game randomly flashes series of digits on the computerscreen at the rate of one per second. Participants in the study were instructedto hit the space bar on the keyboard whenever they saw three consecutive oddnumbers appear.

"It's fairly simple but distracting enough that youhave to really be watching it to make sure that you don't miss a number and arementally keeping track," Liguori said.

"That was a big question for us going into this – howdo you ensure that the participant is distracted? And the RVIP was a goodsolution for that," Liguori added.

The participants, who had fasted for 10 hours before eachvisit, were told to consume as much as they wanted of 10 miniature quicheswhile they were either playing the game or eating quietly without distractionsfor 15 minutes.

The food was weighed and counted before and after it wasgiven to each person.

After a 30-minute rest period, participants completed anexit survey that asked them to recall how many quiches they had been given andthe number they had consumed.

They also rated how much they enjoyed the meal as well astheir feelings of hunger and fullness.

Liguori hypothesized that, in keeping with prior research,when people ate while using the computer game they would not only consume morefood but would have poorer memory of what they ate and enjoy it less.

Instead, she found that participants ate less when they weredistracted by the computer game.

Moreover, participants' meal memory – their ability torecall how much they had been served and eaten – was less accurate when theywere distracted than when they ate quietly without the game.

The results suggest that there may be a difference betweendistracted eating and mindless eating. Although the terms are often usedinterchangeably, Liguori hypothesized that they may be distinctly differentbehaviours with nuances that need to be explored.

Mindless eating may occur when we eat without intending todo so, the researchers said.

For example, we grab a handful of candy from the jar at theoffice as we walk by or start snacking on chips because they happen to be insitting front of us.

Conversely, distracted eating may occur when we engage in asecondary activity such as watching TV or answering emails while we aredeliberately eating – for example, when we're eating dinner, the researchersadded.

The University of Illinois is a public land-grant researchand was founded in 1867.

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