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Junk foods shown to be more distracting than healthy foods

A candy bowl on a co-workers desk can be nearly irresistible at times.  New research out of Johns Hopkins University reveals that junk foods can be twice as distracting as healthy foods, even when they’re not staring us in the face. 

In a two part study, published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, researchers observed 18 participants while engaged in a computerized timed task.  During that time, a variety of images including high fat food, low fat food and non-food items flashed on the screen for 125 milliseconds which is too fast to recognize what was seen. They found that low fat foods (green salad or carrots) and non-food items (like a football) distracted participants, however, high fat foods (donut or chocolate bar) distracted them twice as much! 

In the second part of the experiment, participants ate small fun size candy bars before starting the computer tasks.  This time all images distracted participants equally, meaning donuts distracted them just as much as carrots did!  There are still unanswered questions though.  Would a sandwich or beverage have yielded the same result?  Or was it the fact that they had satisfied the urge for the calorie dense food by having a small amount beforehand?  More research is needed to find out. 

If you tend to “wing it” for lunch vs have a plan, you’ll be more susceptible to impulse snacking.  In the meantime, we suggest a balanced diet to help fend off temptation.  

Published December 1, 2017

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