Watching television may increase risk of childhood obesity, study reveals

The study shows children spent more time in front of television at four years of age were at greater risk of suffering from obesity, overweight and metabolic syndrome at seven years of age

As per a new research, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, researchers have found a strong association between childhood obesity and watching television.

The scientists studied a database from 1,480 children and analysed five major lifestyle habits, including physical activity, television time, plant-based food consumption, ultra-processed food consumption and sleep time. As a part of the research, the parents were asked to complete several questionnaires on their children's lifestyle habits at four years of age.

The researchers also measured the children's body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and blood pressure at four and seven years of age to calculate the health impact of those habits. Rowaedh Bawaked, researcher at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Spain, said, "Identifying habits linked to overweight and obesity in the early stages of life can help us to define preventive strategies against other conditions, such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases during adulthood."

The research findings noted that those children who were less active and spent more time in front of the television at four years of age were at greater risk of suffering from obesity, overweight and metabolic syndrome at seven years of age.

Is obesity linked to sedentary activities?

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Meanwhile, the scientists also measured the time spent on other sedentary activities, including reading, drawing and doing puzzles. But, those were not linked to overweight or obesity. "When children watch television, they see a huge number of advertisements for unhealthy food. This may encourage them to consume these products," said co-leader of the study Dora Romaguera from Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

The study showed that high consumption of ultra-processed food products such as sweet beverages, pastries and refined-grain products, which are rich in sugar, salt and saturated fat, at the age of four years was linked to a higher BMI at the age of seven years.

Affects weight control later

The researchers also pointed out that watching television discourages physical activity and interrupts sleep time that later affects the weight control in a child. The researchers suggested that children should have a balanced lifestyle during childhood with limited television time, adequate physical activities, eat a proper diet with lots of vegetables and get enough hours of sleep.