October 10, 2001
Watching TV May Be Related to Poor Quality Diet and Increased
Risk of Child Obesity
Presented Identify Implications of Television Watching
The number of
overweight children in the U.S. has more than doubled since the early
1970's, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Several factors are responsible for the obesity epidemic in children.
Research that will be presented today at the annual North American
Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) meeting in Quebec City, Canada,
highlights the relationship between television watching and the development
of obesity in children.
"These new studies provide a clearer understanding of exactly how television
watching contributes to obesity in children," says Samuel Klein, M.D.,
chairman of the NAASO Public Affairs Committee and professor of medicine at
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. "The findings
show that watching television not only prevents physical activity but also
promotes unhealthy snacking and consumption of less nutritious meals." Among
the findings being presented:
A group of 1,478 parents in New York State, with children between the age of
one and five, were surveyed regarding their TV watching habits and diets.
Children who watched television during dinner and snacked while watching
television -- practices that are greatly influenced by their parents --
consumed less milk, fruits and vegetables than those who turned off the
television at dinnertime and didn't snack while watching television. "The
quality of children's diets varies depending on their television viewing
habits," says Barbara A. Dennison, M.D., senior scientist at the Bassett
Research Institute in Cooperstown, N.Y., associate professor of Clinical
Pediatrics, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., and lead investigator. "We
believe that the poor quality diets associated with television watching
explains, in part, the long-recognized association between television
viewing and obesity."
As a part of the same study, Dr. Dennison found that children who had a
television in their bedroom watched more television than children who did
not. In addition, children with a television in their bedroom were more
likely to be overweight than those without. "Placing a television in a
child's bedroom offers more opportunity for television watching and, based
on our findings, is yet another risk factor for childhood obesity," reports
Researchers at The Pennsylvania State University followed a group of 186
girls from age five until age seven. The study showed that girls who watched
more television snacked more frequently and had higher fat intakes from
snack foods, which in turn was associated with excessive increases in body
weight between the ages of five and seven. "Our results provide evidence
that excessive television viewing is a risk factor for obesity in children,"
says Lori A. Francis, research assistant and lead researcher, "to the extent
that it may promote snacking patterns associated with overweight."
The North American Association for Study of Obesity (NAASO) is a leading
scientific society dedicated to the study of obesity. NAASO is committed to
encouraging research on the causes, treatment, and prevention of obesity,
and to keeping the scientific community and public informed of new advances
in the field.