Research has shown in the past that eating without distractions allows our digestive system to process food efficiently enough to keep us from over-eating. And now a new report featured in the journal Appetite, helps explain the mechanisms.
The paper is titled, Ingested but not perceived: Response to satiety cues disrupted by perceptual load, and it was authored by Jenny Morris, Chi Thanh Vi, Marianna Obrist, Sophie Forster, and Martin R.Yeomans.
“Selective attention research has shown that when perceptual demand is high, unattended sensory information is filtered out at early stages of processing. We investigated for the first time whether the sensory and nutrient cues associated with becoming full (satiety) would be filtered out in a similar manner,” the researchers wrote of the study’s intentions. “One-hundred and twenty participants consumed either a low-satiety (75 kcal) or high-satiety (272 kcal plus thicker texture) beverage, delivered via an intra-oral infusion device while participants simultaneously completed a task which was either low or high in perceptual demand. “
The data proved that when our sensors are overwhelmed we become less attuned to somatic communications. This is why it’s much harder to take down a whole pizza pie on our own when we’re not watching television.
When participants imbibed drinks with high-calorie counts while performing demanding activities they consistently overate. Conversely, those who were not assigned tasks that required perpetual engagement snacked much less after meals.
The strength of the data suggests the results would carry over when applied to television, streaming, and video games.
The authors emphasized their report’s implications with respect to those suffering from obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
“Our study suggests that if you’re eating or drinking while your attention is distracted by a highly engaging task, you’re less likely to be able to tell how full you feel. You’re more likely to keep snacking than if you’d been eating while doing something less engaging,” explained Professor Martin Yeomans explains in a university release. “This is important for anyone wanting to stay a healthy weight: if you’re a habitual TV-watching snacker – watching, say, an engaging thriller or mystery, or a film with a lot of audio or visual effects – you’re not likely to notice when you feel full. Video-gamers and crossword solvers should also take note.”
It’s pretty hard to enjoy content without a snack of some kind at the ready, which is why the authors suggest alternatives to the century-old trend.
Consider establishing a portion limit before engaging. Be mindful of biological signals that indicate a satiated appetite.
When our normal fluid levels drop between 1% and 2% we experience signals that closely resemble hunger. To ensure you don’t mistake the two stay hydrated.
“We already knew that feeling full could be affected by the texture and appearance of food, as well as pre-existing expectations about how full we think a type of food should make us feel,” Dr. Yeomans concludes. “Now we also know that feeling full depends on how much sensory information our brains are processing at the time.”