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Just One Hour of Daily TV May Mean Weight Gain

Apr 27, 2015 12:11 AM EDT

It's no secret that being a couch potato watching television all day may cause you to pack on a few pounds. But now new research shows that just one hour of television a day is linked to weight gain in children.

Compared to their peers who watched less than 60 minutes of television daily, kindergartners and first-graders who watched as little as one hour of television a day were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is a nationwide epidemic, and has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, in 2012 more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9, while obese means having a BMI of 30 or higher.

Previous studies have shown that children who watch a lot of TV are at risk for being overweight. However, studies have not looked specifically at the link between TV watching and obesity among kindergartners.

So for this study, researchers analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey of 11,113 children who were in kindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year. The team took into account factors like the number of hours of television children watched on weekdays and weekends and how often they used computers. They also measured their height and weight.

A year later, 10,853 of the children's height and weight were measured again, and parents were asked about their child's TV habits.

According to the results, US kindergartners watched an average of 3.3 hours of TV a day. Both kindergartners and first-graders who watched 1-2 hours or more than two hours daily had significantly higher BMIs than those who watched less than 30 minutes or 30-60 minutes a day. That's even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity and computer use.

Astonishingly, in both kindergarten and first grade, children who watched just one hour of TV daily were 50-60 percent more likely to be overweight, and 58 percent to 73 percent more likely to be obese compared to those who watched less than an hour.

That's a very concerning statistic considering how much television is a part of our lives in this technology-driven world.

Furthermore, kids who watched one hour or more of TV daily were 39 percent more likely to become overweight and 86 percent more likely to become obese between kindergarten and first grade.

"Given overwhelming evidence connecting the amount of time TV viewing and unhealthy weight, pediatricians and parents should attempt to restrict childhood TV viewing," study author Mark D. DeBoer said in a press release.

In order to help cull the childhood obesity epidemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting kids and teens to less than two hours of screen time each day. However, according to this latest study, even that may be too much.

"Given the data presented in this study, the AAP may wish to lower its recommended TV viewing allowances," DeBoer added.

It should be noted that childhood obesity could put children more at risk for cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, the CDC warns.

Efforts to fight the childhood obesity epidemic have focused on getting kids to be more active which, along with eating healthy, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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