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It’s Official: Snacking at Work Makes You Eat More.

by . March 26th, 2014

The sheer girth of the worldwide obesity epidemic  has been increasing for the past few decades.

It has been driven mostly by the constantly decreasing costs of delivering calories, but also partly by an overall shift in lifestyle that drives many of us to multitask by snacking mindlessly while doing sedentary work.

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We’ve gone on about how entreps need to take better care of their health, and how multitasking can actually be bad not just for productivity, but for the overall quality of your work. Now, a recent study strongly suggests that even snacking while we work will not only makes us fatter, it may prevent us from enjoying food as we would otherwise.

In their study Leaving a Flat Taste in Your Mouth: Task Load Reduces Taste Perception Lotte van Dillen of Leiden University and Reine van der Wal of Raboud University Nijmegen found that salty, sweet, and sour foods are perceived differently when the ones eating are distracted by a memory task.

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While it all seems obvious in retrospect, this is the first study to actually delve into the mechanics of eating while distracted – a topic which was recently revisted in a collection of 24 studies published  in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year.

Van Dillen and  van der Wal had participants memorize a 1- or 7-digit number, then had them consume different concentrations of lemon juice, diluted grenadine syrup, or salted crackers. The participants were then asked to rate how strong the flavors were.

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As you would have guessed from the title, participants rated the substances weaker when they were more distracted. The effect became more obvious as the substances were given higher concentrations of flavoring.

Further testing also revealed that participants ate more to be sated when they were distracted. When given the choice, distracted participants also added more sugar to their lemonade and ate saltier crackers.

The researchers conclude: “These findings suggest that task load not only affects taste perception, but also actual consumption… To have an optimal taste experience, people may need to increase their intake of a substance when engaged in demanding activities.

Why Should I Care?

We hardly need to point out the very real risks that come with overindulging in anything. Eating whenever you like and whenever it’s convenient seems to be one of the better things about working for yourself. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be doing yourself, nor your food any favors.

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If you find yourself in need of a snack at work, it might be better to just stick with fruit. Or better yet leave those spreadsheets alone for a couple of minutes and eat whatever else you want. Your taste buds (and the rest of your body) will thank you for it.

Image Credits

Grapes: Rubbermaid Products via photopin cc
Cupcake: moriza via photopin cc
Desk: a.has via photopin cc
Snacks: MeganMorris via photopin cc
Crackers: boeke via photopin cc
Burger: …-Wink-… via photopin cc

Sources and Additional Reading

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