When Assistant Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos conducted research with her student Bernadette Wormuth ’12, she knew the study could have impacts for inquiry regarding weight gain and obesity. However, she never anticipated that their paper, “Watching a food-related television show and caloric intake. A laboratory study,” would gain international attention.
In the past two weeks, dozens of international news and wire service outlets have published articles about the study -in a number of languages including Russian, Italian and English – and have appeared in outlets such as The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Daily News and Analysis (DNA), NewKerela.com, NHS Choices and Bollywood on Demand.
“Television watching has been positively associated with overeating and obesity,” Bodenlos and Wormuth say in the abstract to their study that is currently in press with the journal Appetite. “How popular food-related television shows affects eating behavior has not been examined.”
Their study looked to determine how exposure to a food-related television program (a segment of Rachel Ray’s cooking show) affects the amount and type of food consumed in adults. College students watched either Rachel Ray or a nature show in a living-room style environment. They then went into the lab’s kitchen and were presented with 800 total calories of chocolate covered candies, cheese curls and carrots. Food was weighed before and after the students were presented the opportunity to eat, to determine amount consumed.
According to the study, “After controlling for dietary restraint, hunger and food preference, significantly more chocolate covered candies were consumed among individuals who watched the cooking program compared to the nature program. No significant differences between conditions were found for overall caloric intake or for cheese curl or carrot consumption. Findings suggest that watching food-related television programs may affect eating behavior and has implications for obesity prevention and intervention efforts.”
While they did not specifically study weight gain as a result of watching food shows, as many of the articles about the study allude, the study did present enough data to warrant a further look.
“What we concluded is that more research should be done on this subject,” explains Bodenlos, noting the study used only college students and subsequent studies could look at a more general population, for instance, or include participants who are already obese. “It would be interesting to see what a longer TV exposure would do, or to be able to study an equal number of participants of each gender to account for gender differences in both television viewing and eating behaviors, or even look at differences in the type of food program or even what is the last thing viewers see cooked and presented on the program.”
Bodenlos joined the HWS faculty in 2009 after serving as an instructor in medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She received a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and did her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she began her research examining comorbidities between obesity and psychological disorders. Bodenlos has several papers published in this area of study.
Wormuth earned her B.A. in English and psychology cum laude from William Smith, with a minor in health care professions. As a student, she was the recipient of the Claudette Kemper Columbus Prize, the Stephanie Christie ’82 Memorial Prize in Psychology, the Betsy Bullock Mitchell ’65 Award, and the President’s Civic Leadership Award. She was a member of Hai Timiai and the HIV/AIDS Awareness Collective.
The article about their research as it appeared in The Telegraph follows.
Warning – TV cookery shows are ‘bad for the waistline’
Food-related programmes may affect eating behaviour by triggering the desire for fatty, sugary foods, scientists claim.
Telegraph Reporters • November 13, 2012
They have come to dominate today’s TV schedules as they try to promote healthy home cooking for the masses. But it turns out cookery programme could be doing more harm than good.
New research reveals TV viewers are more likely to tuck into unhealthy, calorie-rich snacks if they are watching a cookery show than a nature programme.
Scientists believe food-related programmes may affect eating behaviour by triggering the desire for fatty, sugary foods.
Although TV viewing generally has previously been associated with poor eating habits, psychologists at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a university in New York, wanted to see what effect cooking programmes specifically had on the taste buds.
They recruited 80 adults and split them into two groups. Half were told to watch a cookery show and the other half a nature programme. Each person was given three bowls containing chocolate covered sweets, cheese curls or carrots. Combined, they added up to 800 calories.
The food was weighed before and after the experiment to see how much was eaten by each person. When researchers weighed the remaining food, they found those watching the cookery programme got through substantially larger amounts of chocolate sweets than the nature show viewers, who were more likely to tuck into the raw carrots.
In a report on their findings, published in the journal Appetite, the researchers said: “TV watching has been associated with overeating and obesity.
“But how popular food-related shows affect eating behaviour has not been examined.
“Significantly more chocolate covered sweets were consumed among those who watched the cooking programme. These findings may have implications for obesity prevention.”
Previous studies have shown watching TV for an hour a day can increase a child’s dietary intake by 167 calories and add more than a stone to their weight over a year, especially as they tend to eat snacks, sweets and fast foods they have seen advertised most frequently on the screen.