Children and teenagers who spend plenty of time in front of screens - especially televisions - tend to gain more weight as they age, according to a new study.
The findings are consistent with research suggesting that idle sitting and exposure to advertisements may fuel poor eating habits. Most U.S. and Canadian kids exceed the recommended two-hour maximum per day.
Researchers used data from a long-term study of kids who took surveys every other year. The surveys included questions about their height and weight as well as how much time they spent watching TV and DVDs and playing computer and video games. Kids were between ages nine and 16 when the study started.
Out of about 4,300 girls in the study, 17 percent were overweight or obese. Twenty-four percent of the 3,500 boys were also above a healthy weight.
From one survey to the next, each one-hour increase in children's daily TV watching was tied to an increase of about 0.1 points on a body mass index (BMI) scale, which measures weight in relation to height. That's a difference of approximately half a pound per extra hour of TV.
Increases in total screen time between survey periods were linked with similar but smaller changes in BMI.
Increases in DVD and video watching were tied to weight gain among girls, in particular.
When kids watch TV, "There is more purposeful, deliberate exposure to eating options, commercials that come on that might cue you to go off to the pantry and grab a cookie or a soft drink," experts say.
Source: Pediatrics, online November 25, 2013.
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