Game playing can influence food intake

Those planning on slimming down in the New Year are being warned that eating while playing computer games could increase snacking and the risk of piling on the pounds.

Researchers have shown that playing games, or simply working through lunch, leads to your body forgetting you have actually eaten at all.

In a study, researchers from the nutrition and behaviour unit in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol have been exploring ways in which memory and attention influence appetite and food intake.

Volunteers were split into two groups, with one group eating a lunch of nine different foods while playing solitaire - a computerised card-sorting game.

The second group ate the same lunch but without any distractions.

The researchers found those who played solitaire felt less full after lunch and just 30 minutes later ate twice as many snacks as the non-distracted participants.

Those who had been playing the computer game could not even remember the food items they had eaten.

Researchers say these findings highlight an important role for memory of recent eating and that distraction can lead to increased food intake later in the day.

Similar observations have been made in people who eat while watching TV.

Reader in behavioural nutrition and one of the authors of the paper Dr Jeff Brunstrom said: "This work adds to mounting evidence from our lab and others that cognition, and memory and attention in particular, play a role in governing appetite and meal size in humans."

The study - Playing A Computer Game During Lunch Affects Fullness, Memory For Lunch, And Later Snack Intake, by Rose Oldham-Cooper, Charlotte Hardman, Charlotte Nicoll, Peter Rogers and Jeff Brunstrom - is available online.