TV Watching and Weight Gain


Just in time for the holidays –

I know that during the holidays I spend more time with my family watching TV and we all enjoy watching cooking programs such as Top Chef. Before Thanksgiving every year, I watch Thanksgiving episodes with my daughter and together we plan the Thanksgiving menu. Our Thanksgiving ritual would not be complete without watching Alton Brown’s method for preparing turkey...

Cooking shows have come to dominate today's TV schedules as they try to promote healthy and innovative home cooking for the masses. But it turns out these programs could be doing more harm than good.

New research reveals TV viewers are more likely to eat unhealthy, calorie-rich snacks if they are watching a cooking show than a nature program! In a report on their findings, published in the journal Appetite, the researchers reported that "TV watching has been associated with overeating and obesity.”

Scientists believe food-related programs may affect eating behavior by triggering the desire for fatty, sugary foods. TV viewing generally has previously been associated with poor eating habits, but in this study psychologists at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, wanted to see what effect cooking programs specifically had on the taste buds.

They recruited 80 adults and split them into two groups. Half were told to watch a cooking show and the other half a nature program. Each person was given three bowls containing chocolate covered sweets, cheese curls or carrots. Researchers found that people watching the cooking shows got through substantially larger amounts of chocolate sweets than the nature show viewers, who were more likely to eat the raw carrots...

How popular food-related shows affect eating behavior has not been examined, but this latest research suggests adults may be just as much at risk from programs which, ironically, set out to promote healthy eating as regular TV watching which has been shown in many previous studies to cause weight increase. Watching TV an hour a day can increase a child's dietary intake by 167 calories and add more than a 10 pounds to their weight over a year, especially as children tend to eat snacks, sweets and fast foods which they see advertised most frequently on the screen.

Seems like I will be watching the National Geographic channel as well as football games this holiday season...

Happy Holidays to you all,

Miriam Rotman MD