It's official: Hollywood action films are bad for you.
A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab has found that the fast cuts and sharp variations in sound levels typical of action movies appear to spur consumption of snacks in viewers.
The research - conducted by academics Aner Tal, Scott Zuckerman, Brian Wansink and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine - found that the consumption of food increased by as much as 98 per cent when the subjects were watching an action movie compared to when they were watching a slower-paced talk show.
The study was conducted on 94 undergraduate students (57 of them female), with a mean age of 19.9 years. They were split into three groups, with each group being assigned a 20-minute slab of content.
Group one watched the 2005 Michael Bay action movie The Island, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor and has, according to the researchers, an average of 24.7 camera cuts per minute and 24.5 "sound source fluctuations" per minute.
The third group watched The Island without sound.
Participants were given "generous amounts" of four snacks - M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes - and allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted. The food was weighed before and after the viewing session to determine consumption.
"People who were watching The Island ate almost twice as many snacks - 98 per cent more - than those watching the talk show," said Brian Wansink, the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and a co-author of the study. "Even those watching The Island without sound ate 36 per cent more."
Calorie consumption also increased, by 65 per cent and 46 per cent respectively.
The researchers concluded that the state of distraction induced by fast-paced action films means people do not focus on their food consumption, with the result that they eat more without realising it.
"We find that if you're watching an action movie while snacking your mouth will see more action too," said lead author Aner Tal. "In other words, the more distracting the program is the more you will eat."
On the upside, viewers tend to be omnivorous, and will eat pretty much anything put in front of them.
"The good news is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that's what's in front of them," said Wansink. "Take advantage of this."
There is sobering news for parents of young children in the study, however: the only content that comes close to action movies in terms of stimulation is cartoons. Letting the little tackers watch while eating breakfast could just be the worst way to start the day.