It's Not Just Hot Fudge Sundaes That Can Make You Gain Weight. Check Out The Design of Your Kitchen.

They're all the rage.  Open floor plans.  But did you know they could make you eat more?

According to a new study, dining environments can have serious consequences for eating behaviors, newswise.com reports.  Although the research was conducted on a college campus, it may still have relevance for the rest of us.

The study, which was conducted with 57 college students in the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell, made use of folding screens to manipulate the arrangement of kitchen and dining areas during the service of buffet-style meals, and two-way mirrors for the unobtrusive observation of variously sized groups of student diners.

“Although more research is needed,” researchers say, “the results of our study suggest that the openness of a floor plan, among many other factors, can affect how much we eat. Eating in an ‘open concept kitchen,’ with greater visibility and convenience of food access, can set off a chain reaction. We’re more likely to get up and head toward the food more often, serve more food and eat more food.”

Each time college students in the study got up to get more food, they ended up eating an average of 170 more calories in the “open” than in the “closed” floor plan kitchen. “Considering that decreasing calorie consumption by 50 to 100 calories per day can reduce or avoid the average annual weight gain of one to two pounds among U.S. adults,” study authors add, “these results have important implications for designers of and consumers in residential kitchens; college, workplace and school cafeterias and dining areas; and buffet-style restaurants.”

Not so long ago, most American kitchens were separate, enclosed spaces, purely functional and not intended for entertaining. “Now,” authors say, “open-concept plans put kitchens on display, which is great for entertaining, but not necessarily for our waistlines. Serving food out of sight from diners in an open kitchen, serving food from a counter in a closed kitchen rather than from a dining table, and creating open kitchens that have the ability to be enclosed may help U.S. adults maintain their weight.”

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