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STUDY: TV and Obesity
JOURNAL: Pediatrics 2002;109:1028-1035
AUTHORS: Dr. Barbara A. Dennison
ABSTRACT: As America's kids continue to pack on the pounds, a team of doctors recommends a simple step that parents can take to lower their preschooler's risk of obesity: removing the TV from the child's bedroom.
COMMENTARY: Their study of low-income youngsters aged 1 to 5 years found that kids with TV sets in their bedrooms watched nearly 5 hours more TV and videos a week and were more likely to be overweight than their peers without bedroom TV sets regardless of the parents' education. Black and Hispanic children tended to watch more television than their white peers did, according to the report in Pediatrics.
The findings support other research showing that body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, tends to increase in tandem with the number of hours spent in front of the TV set among older children. However, few studies have examined whether TV-watching was associated with excess weight among younger kids.
Parents should not put TVs in their child's bedroom and (should) limit their child's TV viewing to 1 to 2 hours a day.
In the United States, nearly one quarter of low-income children younger than 5 years are overweight. Excess weight in childhood raises the risk for adult obesity and increases the chances of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Therefore, future studies should investigate whether watching fewer hours of television or removing TV sets from kids' bedrooms can help lower the rate of childhood obesity, the researchers suggest. In an interview, Dennison added that future studies should also investigate the relationship between overweight and having a TV in the bedroom among children from wealthier families.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit children's total media time to 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day, remove television sets from children's bedrooms and discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years. Parents are also encouraged to view television programs with children and discuss the content.
The study findings are based on a survey of more than 2,700 low-income parents with preschool-aged children. Nearly 40% of kids had a TV set in their bedroom, raising their risk of overweight by nearly one third.
Black children watched nearly 18 hours of TV a week, Hispanic youngsters watched about 15 hours and white children watched nearly 13 hours of television each week. About 43% of Hispanic children were overweight, compared with 35% of black children and 33% of white children.
Because most children watch TV by age 2, educational efforts about limiting child TV/video viewing and keeping the TV out of the child's bedroom need to begin before then.