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TV Watching Linked To Asthma Risk

March 3, 2009

UK researchers reported on Tuesday that children who watch television for more than two hours a day have twice the risk of developing asthma, Reuters reported.

Asthma is the most common chronic illness in children and affects more than 300 million people around the world. Asthma causes wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness.

Experts say the new study may help link asthma to obesity and lack of exercise.

Andrea Sherriff of the University of Glasgow and colleagues wrote in the journal Thorax that there has been a recent suggestion that breathing patterns associated with sedentary behavior could lead to developmental changes in the lungs and wheezing illnesses in children.

For the study, researchers tracked the health of over 3,000 UK children from birth to age 11.

The children’s parents were questioned each year on wheezing symptoms among their children and whether a doctor had diagnosed asthma as they grew up. Parents were also asked to keep track of how much television children watched.

Data showed that children who watched TV for more than two hours a day were almost twice as likely to have been diagnosed with asthma as those who watched less. However, the odds were still small – about two in 100.

The study found that 6 percent of children at around age 12 who had no symptoms of the disease growing up soon developed asthma.

Elaine Vickers of Asthma UK, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement: “The findings add to a wealth of evidence linking a lack of exercise and being overweight with an increased risk of asthma.”

However, Vickers acknowledged that the study was the first to directly link sedentary behavior at a very young age to a higher risk of asthma later in childhood.

“We think the problem is inactivity, not watching TV. TV is simply the best proxy marker for this,” said Co-author Dr. James Paton, from the University of Glasgow.

He suggested there might be a window in early in life when activity does something to protect the lungs.

“It may be that not sitting still makes you take deep breaths and that might be important in the long run.”

Vickers said the UK has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world, so it is especially important that parents try to pry their kids away from the TV and encourage them to lead an active lifestyle. This includes children with asthma, who can also greatly benefit from regular exercise,” she said.

The World Health Association said as many as 30 percent of children in some countries develop the inflammatory disease.

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