Another Facet of Mukbang

It would be so easy, at this point, to say, “Okay, that’s enough about the crazy mukbang fad. Let’s put it to bed.” Yet, the incredible fact is, we have not yet touched on every aspect of the subject. So far, we have examined the type of videos where the main point is to watch people stretch their mouths and stomachs by devouring monstrous heaps of food. Up to this point, we have referenced the senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch. So far, there has been no mention here of the involvement of sound.

But as it turns out, even eatertainment has more dimensions than were previously imagined. The reason for this is ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response. The internet offers a boundless number of audio and audio-visual experiences for people who enjoy this kind of mild, continuous stimulation.

Those who are able to benefit from the phenomenon describe low-grade euphoria, a sparkly brain, a sensation that is soothing but intense, tingles in the scalp and spine, a massage for the mind, and the weird frisson of musical chills. For people able to benefit from ASMR, it facilitates relaxation, meditation, and peaceful sleep.

Reporter Sue Quinn spoke with Dr. Emma Gray, who says ASMR can provide “relief from their mental health problems, including insomnia, anxiety, stress and depression.” The psychologist points to…

[…] hormones, including oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love” or “trust” hormone. These are responsible for the calming and positive impact it has on people helping them to relax and sleep.

This might be a good place to mention that, in theory at least, anything that promotes general emotional well-being might reasonably be expected to provide a layer of protection against obesity. An awful lot of people eat in order to feel better, and if there are alternative ways to avoid anxiety and other negative emotions, it seems obvious that the ASMR effect would be beneficial, in the most general sense, in preventing obesity.

The amazing variety of sounds

It is deceptively easy to understand why the sounds of caregiving are important. They are connected with the earliest sensations of security, trust, and connection — in short, with being mothered. These are intimate sounds like hair-brushing, whispering, book pages turning, dry cereal being poured into a bowl. They may or may not be connected with actual life events. Someone can get the ASMR effect from the sound of an electric hair dryer, or of playing cards being shuffled and dealt, or ocean waves crashing against rocks, without any of those things having been part of their experience.

Actually, all-electronic versions of relaxing sound have been available for some time, in the form of white noise, pink noise, brown noise, etc. Some people need the sound of a running fan or air conditioner to sleep. Ancient humans slumbered to the monotonous yet captivating lullaby of rustling leaves, or rain falling on a roof.

Therapeutic sound is a spectrum, and some parts of it have been around for millennia. This might explain the safety factor. Out in nature, any kind of continuous sound tends to be reassuring. When an ongoing noise suddenly stops, the creature knows that something in the environment has changed, which means it might have to face down danger. Today’s humans probably harbor a visceral response rooted in that defensive reflex.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Are noisy YouTube binge eating videos triggering more than just joy?,”, 09/11/20
Image by Meagan/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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