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London - Watching the news during a recession could make you fat, researchers have warned.

They found volunteers increased their food intake by 40 per cent when they were bombarded by gloomy news bulletins.

They also craved more calorie-dense unhealthy foods.

The findings, in the journal Psychological Science, show a direct link between eating patterns and depressing news items.

Researchers from the University of Miami gave volunteers two bowls of sweets and told them one type was very high in calories and the other very low. In fact, they were identical in calorie content. Before the test, each volunteer was shown posters which contained either neutral messages or described struggle and adversity in tough economic times.

Those shown the gloomy messages not only ate 40 per cent more in total than the other group but dispatched 70 per cent more of the supposedly high-calorie sweets. Those who viewed the neutral posters ate roughly the same amount of each.

Research leader Juliano Laran said: ‘It is clear from the studies that taste was not what caused the reactions, it was a longing for calories. Now that we know this sort of messaging causes people to seek out more calories out of a survival instinct, it would be wise for those looking to kick off a healthier new year to tune out the news for a while.’

Obesity has emerged as a major burden on the NHS and the number of hospital admissions for weight-related illnesses has risen more than ten-fold in the past decade.

Experts predict the fat epidemic will cost the economy £60billion annually by 2050. - Daily Mail