Lose weight with the ‘PBS diet’

The war between the low-fat and low-carb diets has been raging for decades. The latest shot to be fired comes in the form of a new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and financed by the National Institutes of Health. In a randomized trial, researchers found a low-carbohydrate diet was more effective than a low-fat diet for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction.

While it is highly unlikely that these latest findings will be the last word in the bagel versus bacon debate, there are some habits all dieters agree to condemn, and snacking while watching television sits at the top of that list. It is generally accepted that TV watchers consume more than those focused solely on their food, but researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab sought to know more. How does the type of programming you watch influence your caloric intake?

They conducted a study that divided 94 participants into three groups. A third watched the 2005 action movie, “The Island,” a third watched that same movie with the sound turned off, and a third watched PBS’ “Charlie Rose” talk show. The results, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, revealed that those watching “The Island” with the sound on ate 98 percent more than those watching “Charlie Rose.” Those watching “The Island” on mute still ate 36 percent more than the “Charlie Rose” group.

Researchers believe that faster paced programming with more camera cuts distracts viewers and causes them to overeat. So whether you choose a fat-free snack like rice cakes, or a low-carb snack like almonds, research suggests that eating with your TV tuned to “Charlie Rose” (or other quality PBS programming, such as the NewsHour) is one way to keep calories in check.