Diet Tip: Skip 'CSI'

People who ponder death eat more, a new study finds, pointing the finger at shows like "CSI."

The researchers did several simple experiments in Europe and the United States: Study subjects were asked to write essays on their feelings about their own deaths. A control group wrote about a painful medical procedure.

Then both groups were given cookies, or in other tests were asked to check off items on a grocery list. The people who had written about their deaths wolfed down more cookies and indicated a desire to buy more at the grocery.

"People want to consume more of all kinds of foods, both healthy and unhealthy, when thinking about the idea that they will die some day," the researchers write in the August issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The study also revealed that people with low self-esteem tended to eat more than the others in the study after death-related thoughts. Placing a mirror in front of the participants reduced the desire to pig out, however.

The findings might affect us in daily life.

"Consumers, especially those with a lower self-esteem, might be more susceptible to over-consumption when faced with images of death during the news or their favorite crime-scene investigation shows," the authors conclude.

Study leaders Naomi Mandel of Arizona State University and Dirk Smeesters from Erasmus University Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, figure its all about escape from self-awareness.

"When people are reminded of their inevitable mortality, they may start to feel uncomfortable about what they have done with their lives and whether they have made a significant mark on the universe," they write. "This is a state called 'heightened self-awareness.' One way to deal with such an uncomfortable state is to escape from it, by either overeating or overspending."

Live Science Staff
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