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Television Viewing - A Major Cause of Obesity Among US Children

by Maulishree Jhawer on  March 29, 2011 at 4:24 PM Health Watch   - G J E 4
Obesity is one of the major health concerns among both children and adults in the United States today. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children should not watch more than two hours of television a day. However, it is commonly seen that on an average American children watch television for 2 to 3 hours in a day. Having a television set in kid's bedroom is not unusual for an average American household and this makes it easy for them to have ready access to it.
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.

References:

1. Television Watching, Energy Intake, and Obesity in US Children

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.

3. Television viewing and childhood obesity. Robinson TN. Division of General Pediatrics and Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. tom.robinson@stanford.edu

Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001 Aug;48(4):1017-25.

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