(NaturalNews) Children consume more calories in given meal if they are watching television while they eat, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto and funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
"It was the first study done of its kind," lead researcher Harvey Anderson said. "People have looked at the influence of television before, but only in terms of how much television was watched during the day, not whether kids were eating while watching television and how much they ate."
Anderson and colleagues split a number of children into four groups. All the children had eaten breakfast at home two hours before the experiment began. Half of them were given a "caloric pre-load" at the beginning of the experiment, consisting of water sweetened with glucose; the other half were given artificially sweetened, zero-calorie water. Half an hour later, all the children were fed lunch, with half of them watching The Simpsons while they ate.
The researchers found that those who watched TV while eating consumed an average of 228 calories more than those who did not. Whether the children had received a caloric pre-load did not appear to have any impact on this effect. However, the researchers did note that the only children who were able to effectively control their eating were those who had received the sweetened water and did not watch TV.
Although 228 calories may not sound like much, the researchers noted that this can add up over time, contributing significantly to the risk of obesity.
"One of Anderson's conclusions is that eating while watching television overrides our ability to know when to stop eating," the Canadian Institutes for Health Research said. "In effect, mindless television watching produces mindless eating ... Anderson has some immediate advice for parents: Turn the television off during mealtime."