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Cutting Out Mealtime Distractions May Help Manage Weight
Date:3/28/2013

would happily carry on eating, and this shows memory systems play a role in stimulating eating and hunger," Robinson said.

The research, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed 24 studies that had investigated the influence of attention and memory on food intake. All studies involved at least two different groups -- often made up of college students -- and compared the results between the groups. For example, one gave a specific meal to people who were watching television and the same meal to people who were not. Another compared people who ate alone to those who ate while watching television or a recorded radio drama.

The findings suggest the following conclusions:

  • Being distracted or less attentive to the food you're eating tends to make you eat more at that sitting.
  • Paying attention to what you're eating tends to make you eat less later on.
  • Even those who are dieting -- called "restrained eaters" by the researchers -- may eat more if they are distracted than if they are able to focus on their food.

Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University at St. Louis, said the research reinforces what dieticians have known for a long time: If you don't pay attention to what you're eating, you will eat more. But she said the new research adds something to the science: Eating while distracted will also affect what you eat later.

"That's a big part that people may not have really thought about before," she said.

Yet for many busy families, slowing down meals may seem impossible. "We've become a grab-and-go-society," she said. "People will eat meals in less than five minutes."

Diekman suggested that even those who dine alone should set a place at the table, cook a meal and enjoy it. "Don't automatically turn on the TV," she said.

Even if you're eating while working at your computer, you can still focus a bit mor
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