People Who Eat in the Dark Tend to Eat Less, Probably Because They Can't See What They're DoingS

A new study conducted on unsuspecting human lab rats in an Illinois Hardee's has found that people tend to consume fewer calories and have a slower rate of maw-stuffing when the lights are low, soft music is wafting down from hidden speakers, a plant is eyeing their meal jealously from a corner, and they can wipe their mouths on the edge of a tablecloth.

Study authors Brian Wansink from Cornell and Koert Van Ittersum from the Georgia Institute of Technology softened the lights, played some soft tunes, and generally classed-up a corner of their Hardee's laboratory. They found that when patrons ate in the more elegant section of the restaurant, they consumed 18 percent fewer calories than people sitting in the unaltered section of the restaurant. Wansink and Van Ittersum argue that bright lights and colors coupled with onerous pop music make people freak out and tamp a lot more food down their gullets in a vain effort to cope with the sensory stress. "Spending that extra time eating a little more slowly," explained Wansink, author of the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, "at a more relaxed pace made a world of difference, not just to how much they ate but how much they liked it."

This little experiment has shown that environment probably has a significant effect on how much food people consume at a sitting, so if fast food places really have our health in mind, they'll bring in interior designers to give their dining rooms "the overpriced bistro" treatment, and maybe hire some flunkie violinists from Julliard to serenade diners tableside. Maybe instead of a ball-pit and plastic indoor play apparatus, McDonald's could just institute a volunteer children's chorus, because listening to a half dozen prepubescent voices croak through "Ave Maria" while you're eating a Big Mac is pretty much the epitome of soothing.

Want to cut calories? Dime the lights, study suggests [MSN]

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