Bad Diet? Maybe You Should Turn off the TV
Several recent studies have documented links among hours spent in front of the television and quality of diet, amount of physical activity, and body mass index (BMI). If you guessed that more hours in front of the tube mean less activity, higher body weight, and a worse diet for most people, give yourself a gold star: They do indeed. Just don’t reward yourself with more TV-viewing time.
Of course, pundits have complained since the early days of black-and-white television that TV viewing was robbing kids of out-of-doors play time, and creating any number of other problems, (e.g. squashing creativity, encouraging passivity, etc.) While TV hasn’t exactly turned our children into zombies, new research suggests those early alarmists may have been on to something. For example, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that less time in front of the TV is associated with “better dietary quality.” Conversely, more time glued to the tube correlated with a worse diet for many children and adults.
And among young children, time spent in front of the tube appears to be linked to a greater risk of overweight and obesity. Likewise, having a television in the bedroom was linked, even more strongly, to the risk of attaining an unhealthy weight among young children. Writing in Pediatrics, the authors of one such study warned: “...educational efforts about limiting child TV/video viewing and keeping the TV out of the child's bedroom need to begin before [age 2].”
Cox R, Skouteris H, Rutherford L, Fuller-Tyszkiewicz M, Dell' Aquila D, Hardy LL. Television viewing, television content, food intake, physical activity and body mass index: a cross-sectional study of preschool children aged 2-6 years. Health Promot J Austr. 2012 Apr;23(1):58-62.