Posted Mar 7, 2009

AN extra hour per day of television can make young children considerably fatter than their friends, research in Aberdeen has shown.

Every extra hour adds an extra kilogram to their weight over a period, according to a study which established that it is not the inactivity which is to blame.

Dr Diane Jackson, of Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, led the three-year study of 89 children aged two to six .

The study group spent an average of two hours a day in front of the television but a child who watched two hours was, on average, one kilogram heavier that a child who watched one hour, and for each extra hour, a kilogram was added to their weight.

The scientists found that it was not reduced physical activity that caused the weight increase. It was more likely to be because they were snacking while viewing or were stimulated to eat by what they viewed Dr Jackson said: “Using a range of techniques, including a state-of-the-art method that measures calories burned during daily life, we measured the children’s physical activity levels, their body fat and how many calories they used.

“The results showed a clear positive link between how much time per day the children spent watching TV and how fat they were. Children who watched TV for 60 minutes more than other children in the study had approximately 1kg more body fat.

” The relationship between TV viewing and diet may be a promising target for obesity interventions.

“It could be that children are watching more adverts for energy- dense foods like light snacks, chocolate, confectionery and sugar sweetened drinks or it could be that they are eating while they are watching TV.”

She said there was already evidence that children who watch more TV eat less fruit and vegetables.

Dr Jackson said children who watched television constantly ate more than those who had no television or television intermittently. That suggested that watching television might interrupt natural responses in the body.

She said: “Between 1996 and 2001, programming aimed at pre- school children doubled and quadrupled on dedicated channels. ” Professor John Speakman, director of the institute of biological and environmental science at the university, and an author of the study, said: “On the face of it the link between TV watching and fatness might seem obvious – when children are watching TV they are not burning up calories on physical activity.

“However, we found it wasn’t reduced physical activity that was making the children fatter. This means it was more probably a link with their food intake.”

Date: Mar 2, 2009

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