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Social Psychology

People consume more calories when eating with a smartphone, study finds

New research provides some initial evidence that distractions like smartphones could contribute to obesity, according to new research published in Physiology & Behavior.

“I have studied mastication and oral physiology for 15 years. I was interested in studying the influence of oral physiology on obesity and its comorbidities,” said study author Luciano Pereira, an associate professor at Federal University of Lavras in Brazil.

In the study of 26 men and 36 women, participants were provided with a tray of food and ate under three experimental conditions: once while using their smartphone, once while reading a magazine, and once while not being allowed to have either the smartphone or magazine.

The food was carefully weighed before and after each session to determine how much had been consumed.

The researchers found that the total calories ingested significantly increased when a smartphone or magazine was available. Eating with the two distractions increased caloric ingestion by approximately 15%, compared to eating with no distraction.

“People should pay attention to what they are eating and should avoid eating with distractors,” Pereira said.

There was not a significant difference in total caloric intake between the smartphone and magazine.

Distractions such as smartphones and reading material could increase caloric intake by disrupting memory processes.

“The role of memory in eating behavior has been increasingly pointed out, showing that lack of food memory or having some memory impairment such as amnesia can increase caloric intake,” the researchers said.