Kindergartners who watch just one hour of TV a day are at greater risk for becoming overweight or obese compared to those who watch TV for less than 60 minutes a day, according to new research at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.
Earlier studies have shown that children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be overweight. This study, however, is one of the first to look specifically at the link between TV watching and obesity among kindergartners.
For the study, researchers observed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, which consisted of 11,113 kindergartners during the 2011-2012 school year.
Parents reported on particular lifestyle factors that could affect a child’s educational performance, including the number of hours of television children watched on weekdays and weekends, and how often they used computers. The children’s weight and height were measured as well.
One year later, 10,853 of the children’s height and weight were re-measured, and parents were asked again about their child’s TV habits.
The findings revealed that U.S. kindergartners watched an average of 3.3 hours of TV a day. Both kindergartners and first-graders who watched one to two hours or more than two hours daily had much higher body mass indexes than those who watched less than 30 minutes or 30-60 minutes a day, even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and computer use.
Children who watched as little as 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 TV for less than an hour. Computer use, however, was not associated with higher weight.
Even more so, children 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,” said study author Mark D. DeBoer, M.D., M.Sc., M.C.R., associate professor of pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting children and teens to less than two hours of screen time each day. DeBoer, however, suggests even less TV time.
“Given the data presented in this study, the AAP may wish to lower its recommended TV viewing allowances,” he said.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics