Bedroom TVs are helping to make kids fat

March 11, 2014

The presence of a television in a child’s bedroom is associated with weight gain beyond that associated with just watching television in general, according to a recent study.

 

The presence of a television in a child’s bedroom is associated with weight gain beyond that associated with just watching television in general, according to a recent study.

Researchers, led by Diane Gilbert-Diamond, ScD, of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire, conducted a telephone survey of 6,522 boys and girls, aged 10 to 14 years, from across the United States and followed up with them 2 and 4 years later.

More than half (59%) the survey participants reported having a television in their bedrooms at the start of the study, with boys, ethnic minorities, and those of lower socioeconomic status much more likely to have one than other children. Children who reported having a bedroom television also reported more television viewing in general, more playing of video games, and more movie watching, compared with children who did not have a bedroom television.

The investigators found that the presence of a television in the bedroom was associated with an excess body mass index (BMI) of 0.57 and 0.75 at 2 years and 4 years, respectively, and a BMI gain of 0.24 from years 2 to 4. This translates to about 1 extra pound every year, and the effect remained even after the researchers controlled for socioeconomic status, parenting styles, education levels, and total television viewing time.

The researchers hypothesize that bedroom television viewing disrupts sleep patterns, and previous studies have linked shorter sleep duration with weight gain in children.

Other possible reasons for the association include that children with bedroom televisions are exposed to more food advertising and snack more, or they spend more hours being sedentary.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. 

 

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