Television Viewing - A Major Cause of Obesity Among US Children
Not only are children inactive while they are watching television, they often snack on unhealthy foods. Establishing unhealthy habits as a child can continue into adulthood and be highly detrimental for the child's health. The fact that children spend a substantial portion of their lives watching television needs special attention in every possible way.
Investigators have hypothesized that television viewing causes obesity by one or more of the following mechanisms:
(1) Decrease in physical activity
(2) Increased calorie consumption while watching TV.
(3) Increased dependence on fast food as a result of processed food product advertisements on TV.
(4) Reduced resting metabolism.
The relationship between television viewing and obesity has been examined in a relatively large number of studies.
The studies suggest that reducing television viewing may help to reduce the risk for obesity or help promote weight loss in obese children.
One school-based, experimental study was designed specifically to test directly the causal relationship between television viewing behaviors and body fat. The results of this randomized, controlled trial provide evidence that television viewing is a cause of increased body fatness and that reducing television viewing is a promising strategy for preventing childhood obesity.
Another study examined the relationship between television watching, energy intake, physical activity, and obesity status in US boys and girls, aged 8 to 16 years. It concluded that the prevalence of obesity is lowest among children watching one or fewer hours of television a day, and highest among those watching four or more hours of television a day.
Television watching was positively associated with obesity among girls, even after controlling for age, race or ethnicity, family income, weekly physical activity, and energy intake.
As the prevalence of overweight increases, the need to reduce sedentary behaviors and promotion of a more active lifestyle becomes essential. Clinicians, public health interventionists, parents, teachers should all encourage active lifestyles to balance the energy intake of children.
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Results From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994
Carlos J. Crespo, DrPH, MS; Ellen Smit, PhD, RD; Richard P. Troiano, PhD, RD; Susan J. Bartlett, PhD; Caroline A. Macera, PhD; Ross E. Andersen, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155:360-365.
2. How Does Increased Television Watching 'Weigh Into' Childhood Obesity?
Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 147, Number 4 (October 2005), published by Elsevier.
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