Background: Obesity is emerging as the most significant health concern of the 21st century. Although this is attributable in part to changes in our environment—including the increased prevalence of energy-dense food—it also appears that several lifestyle factors may increase our vulnerability to this calorie-rich landscape. Epidemiologic studies have begun to show links between adiposity and behaviors such as television watching, alcohol intake, and sleep deprivation. However, these studies leave unclear the direction of this association. In addition, studies that investigated the acute impact of these factors on food intake have reported a wide variety of effect sizes, from highly positive to slightly negative.
Objective: The purpose of this article was to provide a meta-analysis of the relation between lifestyle choices and increases in acute food intake.
Design: An initial search was performed on PubMed to collect articles relating television watching, sleep deprivation, and alcohol consumption to food intake. Only articles published before February 2012 were considered. Studies that took place in a controlled, laboratory setting with healthy individuals were included. Studies were analyzed by using 3 meta-analyses with random-effects models. In addition, a 1-factor ANOVA was run to discover any main effect of lifestyle.
Results: The 3 most prominent lifestyle factors—television watching, alcohol intake, and sleep deprivation—had significant short-term effects on food intake, with alcohol being more significant (Cohen's d = 1.03) than sleep deprivation (Cohen's d = 0.49) and television watching (Cohen's d = 0.2).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that television watching, alcohol intake, and sleep deprivation are not merely correlated with obesity but likely contribute to it by encouraging excessive eating. Because these behaviors are all known to affect cognitive functions involved in reward saliency and inhibitory control, it may be that they represent common mechanisms through which this eating is facilitated.