Here is a simple strategy to combat excessive weight gain in teens: limit television viewing.
That’s the conclusion of a new study.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, teenage obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years with more than one-third of children and adolescents currently overweight or obese.
Researchers performed a one-year community-based randomized trial that enrolled 153 adults and 72 adolescents from the same households.
During that year, investigators conducted six face-to-face group meetings, sent monthly newsletters, and set-up 12 home-based activities.
In addition, each household agreed to allow researchers to attach a “TV Allowance” to all televisions in the household for the one-year study period. Television viewing hours, diet, and physical activity levels were measured before and after the intervention.
Researchers discovered a direct link between reduced TV hours and decreased weight gain for teens. The TV hours’ impact on weight gain was not significant for adults.
These findings suggest that television viewing is a risk for excess weight gain among adolescents. Furthermore, the implication is that parents who limit their adolescents’ television viewing may help their adolescent maintain a healthy body weight.
Study findings are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
According to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [NHANES] 2003-2006, about 31 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese, therefore finding the causes for weight gain in this population is growing increasingly important.
According to Simone A. French, Ph.D., principal investigator of this study, “We tried to intervene on behaviors that are related to energy balance, such as television viewing, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, physical activity, and consumption of packaged convenience foods.
“Although the individual contribution of each of these behaviors to excess weight gain and obesity may be small, it is important to examine their possible role individually and together in promoting excess weight gain.”
French said the associations between these behaviors and risk for excess weight gain may differ among adults and adolescents because of their different physical and social developmental stages.
But she called the study “an important piece of evidence that reducing TV hours is a powerful weight gain prevention strategy parents can use to help prevent excess weight gain among their children by changing the home environment and household television viewing norms.”