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Effects of eating together online on autonomic nervous system functions: a randomized, open-label, controlled preliminary study among healthy volunteers

Biopsychosoc Med. 2023 Mar 10;17(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s13030-023-00263-8.


BACKGROUND: Eating alone has been significantly associated with psychological distress. However, there is no research that evaluates the effects or relation of eating together online to autonomic nervous system functions.

METHODS: This is a randomized, open-label, controlled, pilot study conducted among healthy volunteers. Participants were randomized into either an eating together online group or an eating-alone group. The effect of eating together on autonomic nervous functions was evaluated and compared with that of the control (eating alone). The primary endpoint was the change in the standard deviation of the normal-to-normal interval (SDNN) scores among heart rate variabilities (HRV) before and after eating. Physiological synchrony was investigated based on changes in the SDNN scores.

RESULTS: A total of 31 women and 25 men (mean age, 36.6 [SD = 9.9] years) were included in the study. In the comparison between the aforementioned groups, two-way analysis of variance revealed interactions between time and group on SDNN scores. SDNN scores in the eating together online group increased in the first and second halves of eating time (F[1,216], P < 0.001 and F[1,216], P = 0.022). Moreover, high correlations were observed in the changes in each pair before and during the first half of eating time as well as before and during the second half of eating time (r = 0.642, P = 0.013 and r = 0.579, P = 0.030). These were statistically significantly higher than those in the eating-alone group (P = 0.005 and P = 0.040).

CONCLUSIONS: The experience of eating together online increased HRV during eating. Variations in pairs were correlated and may have induced physiological synchrony.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry, UMIN000045161. Registered September 1, 2021. .

PMID:36895016 | DOI:10.1186/s13030-023-00263-8

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