How your TV remote control can help you lose weight effortlessly
If you 1) watch TV regularly and 2) could do to lose a few pounds of fat, you can lose weight by making sure you zap away from junk food ads. These unconsciously prompt you to increase your calorie intake, discovered psychologists at Yale University. The makers of ads for soft drinks and fast-food chains have learned how to whet TV viewers' appetites.
The researchers recently published the results of a series of experiments in Health Psychology, in which they got subjects to watch real TV ads. In one of the experiments the researchers used nearly a hundred students aged 18-24. The students had to watch a TV show for 16 minutes, which included two breaks during which a total of eleven commercials were shown.
On one occasion the students watched commercials for products that had nothing to do with food [Control], on another occasion they saw commercials for junk foods [Snack Ads] and on a third occasion they were shown commercials for healthy foods such as orange juice, protein bars and breakfast cereals [Nutrition Ads].
After watching TV the students had to taste snacks. These included healthy snacks such as carrot and celery sticks, but also chocolates, cheese biscuits and crisps. The researchers measured exactly how much the subjects ate.
The figure below shows that after watching commercials for junk food the students ate more of everything. They ate lots more of the unhealthy products, but also more vegetables. TV commercials for junk food turn us into gluttons it seems.
The researchers discovered that sensitivity to junk-food commercials was greater in students who of their own accord set limits to their eating behaviour [Restrained eaters] and in men.
The figures below show the z-scores. The higher the z-score of a factor, the more it increased susceptibility to junk-food ads.
Pleasure and enjoyment play a key role in ads for junk food. These commercials awaken our desire to guzzle on food. People who try to regulate their eating behaviour are extra sensitive to the subliminal psychological messages of junk food-ads.
Ads for healthy foods, however, have the opposite effect and suppress appetite.
"TV food advertising increases snack consumption and may contribute to the obesity epidemic", the psychologists write. "Current industry efforts to self-regulate TV food advertising to youth are limited to children 12 years and under but the present findings suggest that reduced exposure to unhealthy food advertising would be beneficial for all age groups."
Health Psychology 2009, Vol. 28, No. 4, 404-13.
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