More TV Time Means Bigger Waist Line For Children

Children who spend more total time watching television, including those who eat meals in front of the tube, are more likely to be overweight, suggests a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

"Children watching more than two hours of TV per day had a higher weight status than children watching less than two hours per day," says Brian E. Saelens, Ph.D., of the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

By age 12, children who watched more than two hours of television a day were more likely to be at or above the 85th percentile for weight for their age and height, a potent risk factor for being overweight later in life, the researchers note.

The study was based on surveys with 169 mothers and their preschool-age children conducted in 1990 and again in 1996. Height and weight of the children were also measured. All of the families lived in San Diego County.

Compared with their television habits in 1990, the children watched an average of approximately five more hours of television a week six years later, spending an average of about 26 hours each week in front of the television. The researchers also found that each meal eaten in front of the television added 38 to 73 minutes of time to overall television watching.

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Previous studies have shown that children who are allowed to watch television during meals are more likely to have unhealthy diets. These factors may be representative of a household that tolerates sedentary activities.

"It is unlikely that children's meals are this lengthy. It is more likely that the measures of children's eating while watching TV is a proxy for a family environment that permits and/or promotes greater TV watching," the researchers say.

Young children who have televisions in their bedrooms also watch more television, the study shows.

"Healthy People 2010, objectives for the nation's health, has for the first time established reducing youth's TV watching as a physical activity and fitness objective," Saelens says. "Targeting decreases in TV watching has been found to help overweight children lose weight as part of clinic- and school-based weight-control programs."

The study was funded in part by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Source: NHLBI