PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Is what you eat… what you watch?

“If you’re watching the news, you’re probably not snacking that much. But if you’re kinda watching a long movie, or something like that, you’re probably snacking a little bit more,” says one college student.

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“If you’re by yourself, you might have like an apple, or something. But if you’re with friends, you definitely have like chips out, maybe pizza,” says another.

Television has been linked to weight gain, but is it TV itself, or the program?

Researchers at Cornell University set out to find the answer by having groups of college students watch 20 minutes of television.

They were randomly assigned to watch an interview show, the action movie “The Island,” or the exact same excerpt of “The Island” but with no sound.

“Action movie means you get a little more stressed. And when we’re stressed, we tend to eat,” says Kathy Parry of Your Real Food Coach.

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M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes were available for snacks, and these were weighed before and after the viewing sessions.

“When we’re frustrated, angry, stressed,” she says, “we tend to want to crunch on things.”

Compared to those watching the interview show, those watching “The Island” with its quick cuts and varying sound levels ate more food and 65 percent more calories, 46 percent more calories even with the silent version, suggesting the more distracting a show, the less attention people pay to what they’re eating.

“It’s a stress release, and you feel different emotions when you eat different foods,” Parry says, “There’s a chemical component to it that we can’t overlook. When we eat foods, it sets off a chemical reaction in the brain, and it makes us feel a certain way.”

If you’re going to watch highly distracting TV, it’s a good idea to avoid snacking. If you are going to snack, set out a fixed amount to avoid overeating.

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