Today’s Headlines: Action Movies, Brain Training and E-Cigs

Action movies make you snack more. There’s a reason that a box of popcorn is empty by the end of the film. A group of researchers set out to see if watching an action movie, The Island, would affect the snacking habits of viewers. They had participants watch an action movie with or without sound or an interview. “While the people watching the interview show ate 104.3 g of food, those who watched the clip of The Island consumed a total of 206.5 g — nearly twice the amount. Watching The Island on mute did diminish appetites, but at 142.1 g the amount consumed was still 36% more than that of the interview group. The total calorie intake of both groups watching the action clip was also higher, at 354 calories with sound and 314 without, compared with just 215 calories for the third group.” This may also mean that having the TV on in the background, even if the sound isn’t on, could be increasing your eating. The researchers note that this occurs because you’re paying less attention to what you put in your mouth. (TIME)

Brain training with healthy food may make it more appetizing. It always feels like diets make us crave the sweets we can’t have. But a new study out this week indicates the opposite might be true. Obese participants were randomly assigned to either a low-calorie, high-fiber-diet and education group or one with no intervention. The education program “taught them to devalue cravings for high-calorie foods and enhance their preference for more satisfying foods with higher protein and fiber.” After six months, MRI brain scans found “areas of the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction showed increased sensitivity to healthy, lower-calorie foods, indicating an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food cues. The area also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy higher-calorie foods.” This indicates that time away from unhealthy food and intensive education about what we should be eating can have profound effects on the way our brain finds reward in the foods we eat. (CBS)

Secondhand “smoke” from e-cigs may not be safe. As more and more smokers switch to e-cigs, much remains unknown about the safety of the nicotine alternatives. A new study found that the vapor given off by e-cigs contains “an overall 10-fold decrease in exposure to harmful particles compared to traditional cigarette smoke. However, they did find a significant increase in exposure to some harmful metals coming from e-cigarette smoke.” Those metals included chromium, nickel, lead and zinc. The researchers note that while their “results demonstrate that overall electronic cigarettes seem to be less harmful than regular cigarettes, their elevated content of toxic metals such as nickel and chromium do raise concerns.” While e-cigs have been marketed as a safer and healthier than their tobacco cousins, much still remains unknown about their effects on health. (Fox)