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Early TV Watching Linked To Adult Metabolic Woes

It appears that kids who watch too much TV can grow up into adults with metabolic issues. I’ve always thought such a connection was logical, given all the advertising kids are exposed to – now also on the Internet – for processed and junk foods…

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The abstract of the report on a new University of Otago (NZ) study explains, “Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels that lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.”

Researchers wanted to know how the link worked, so they could determine what foods and habits should be limited or eliminated from kids’ routines.

What they did

Using data from 879 participants, researchers found those who watched more television between the ages of 5 and 15 were more likely to have conditions associated with metabolic syndrome at age 45.

Television viewing times were asked at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. On average, the kids and teens reported watching just over two hours per weekday.

What they found

“Those who watched the most had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in adulthood,” study spokesman Professor Bob Hancox says. “More childhood television viewing time was also associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity and lower physical fitness.”

Specifically, boys watched slightly more television than girls, and metabolic syndrome was more common in men, than women (34 percent and 20 per cent respectively). The link between childhood television viewing time and adult metabolic syndrome was seen in both sexes however, and may even be stronger in women.

The takeaway

“Like any observational study, researchers cannot prove that the association between television viewing at a young age directly causes adult metabolic syndrome,” Hancox says. “[But] there are several plausible mechanisms by which longer television viewing times could lead to poorer long-term health.

“Television viewing has low energy expenditure and could displace physical activity and reduce sleep quality,” Hancox observes. “Screen time may also promote higher energy intake, with children consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat dietary products with fewer fruit and vegetables. These habits may persist into adulthood.”

Hancox says the team found that screen times reported by children and teens have increased in recent years with new technologies (i.e.- the Internet).

“These findings lend support to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation that children and young teenagers should limit their recreational screen time.”

My take

I’ve long believed that the risk of childhood obesity and adult metabolic disorders increases directly in proportion to the time kids watch TV or surf the net. As Hancox says, they’re bombarded with advertising, and ads disguised as entertainment. And screen time is sedentary time.

While governments across the globe move ever-so-slowly to implement measures to enforce WHO’s recommendation re.- screen time, it remains up to parents to ensure that their kids don’t overdo screen time and up their risk of both childhood and adult metabolic disorders.

~ Maggie J.