Unhealthy Eating, TV Viewing Work Together To Make Fat, Unhealthy Kids
May 9, 2012

Unhealthy Eating, TV Viewing Work Together To Make Fat, Unhealthy Kids

According to a recently published study - which only serves to bolster what is already accepted as common sense - watching television and unhealthy eating habits often go hand-in-hand for American kids.

Results of the study have been published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

While many parents and health officials alike have associated TV viewing by young people with unhealthy eating habits, this study shows these poor food choices can extend into early adulthood. According to a press release, American children aren´t getting the recommended amount of whole fruit, whole grains, legumes, or dark green and orange vegetables, such as kale and carrots.

To make up for these deficiencies, American youth are eating more and more fatty foods, substituting the good stuff with sodium and added sugar which increase their chances of diabetes, obesity and other chronic, life-long diseases.

Leah M. Lipsky, Ph.D., M.H.S. , and Ronald J. Iannotti, Ph.D., of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Bethesda, Md., conducted to the study and examined the association between watching TV and making poor food choices. Using Data from the 2009-2010 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Study, Doctors Lipsky and Iannotti studied a national representative group of more than 12,000 students from the 5th to the 10th grade.

“Television viewing (TVV) time was associated with lower odds of consuming fruit or vegetables daily and higher odds of consuming candy and sugar-sweetened soda daily, skipping breakfast at least one day per week and eating at a fast food restaurant at least one day per week in models adjusted for computer use, physical activity, age, sex, race/ethnicity and family affluence,” said the doctors, explaining their findings in the press release.

“The relationship of TVV with this unhealthy combination of eating behaviors may contribute to the documented relationship of TVV with cardiometabolic risk factors.”

This study also found younger children, girls, and white children were more likely to eat the right kinds of fruits and vegetables each day as opposed to their older, male and black and hispanic counterparts. Similarly, older children, particularly black youth, were more likely to eat sweets every day, meaning these students are missing out on the many health benefits fresh fruits and veggies can provide.

The study also found older boys, particularly blacks and Hispanics, were much more likely to drink soda regularly than compared with other ethnic and racial groups. Older, black or hispanic girls were more likely to skip breakfast than other students, which experts still hold is the most important meal of the day.

“Future research should elucidate the independent contributions of TVV, food advertising and TV snacking on dietary intake in this population,” said Doctors Lipsky and Iannotti.

“If these relationships are causal, efforts to reduce TVV or to modify the nutritional content of advertised foods may lead to substantial improvements in adolescents´ dietary intake.”