Young adults who spend more time watching television each day are more likely to have a higher body mass index and bigger waist circumference, says a new research.
The study is a 15-year analysis by the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health.
Young adulthood is an important time to intervene and promote less television viewing.
"We were quite surprised to find that television viewing was associated with subsequent obesity for young adults, but not for the middle-aged. This suggests that middle-aged adults may differ from young adults in how they respond to the influence of TV viewing," said lead author Anthony Fabio, assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health.
Dr. Fabio and his colleagues analyzed data from 3,269 adults recruited from Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland, Calif., who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study.
For 15 years starting in 1990, the participants reported their television viewing habits and had their waist circumference measured and their body mass index calculated every five years.
Participants, who spent more time watching television when they were approximately 30 years old, were more likely to be obese five years later, compared to their counterparts who spent lea time in front of the television.
The researchers suspect may potential reasons for the association that young adults may be more likely to snack during television viewing and consume unhealthy food, as they are susceptible to the seduction of junk food advertising on television.
The CARDIA study also found that the study participants were more likely to eat healthy as they aged.
The study found that 23 percent of the men and 20.6 percent of the women watched four or more hours of television a day. Within the group of those who watch TV for a longer period, 35.9 percent were black and 8.6 percent were white, and 40.8 percent had a high school education, 17.4 percent had an education beyond high school.
Some of the factors such as lower family income, higher rates of smoking and drinking were also associated with more time spent watching television.
"Television viewing and obesity are both highly prevalent in many populations around the world," said Dr. Fabio.
"This means that even small reductions in television viewing could lead to vast public health improvements. Reducing sedentary time should be a healthy lifestyle guideline heavily promoted to the public. Our study indicates that the biggest bang for the buck would be in targeting young adults for interventions to reduce television viewing. Healthy lifestyle behaviors should start at early ages," he added.
The research is published online in the journal SAGE Open.