Less TV Could Mean
Fewer Pounds For Kids
PALO ALTO, Calif.- Switching off the television may help prevent children from getting fatter " even if they do not change their diet or increase the amount they exercise, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
A study of 192 third and fourth graders, generally aged 8 and 9, found that children who cut the number of hours spent watching the tube gained nearly two pounds (0.91 kg) less over a one-year period than those who did not change their television diet.
The findings are important because they show that weight loss can be attributed to solely a reduction in television viewing and not any other activity, said Thomas Robinson, a pediatrician at Stanford University, in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
"One of the things that makes this study unique was that it focused specifically on reducing TV, videotape and video-game viewing without promoting any other activities as substitutes,'' said Robinson, who led the study.
American children spend an average of more than four hours per day watching television and videos or playing video games, and rates of childhood obesity have doubled over the past 20 years, Robinson said.
In the study, presented this week to the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco, the researchers persuaded about 100 of the students to reduce their television viewing by one-quarter to one-third.
Children watching fewer hours of television showed a significantly smaller increase in waist size and had less body fat than other students who continued their normal television viewing, even though neither group ate a special diet or took part in any extra exercise.
One explanation for the weight loss could be the children unglued from the television may simply have been moving around more and burning off calories, Robinson said.
Another reason might be due to eating fewer meals in front of the television. Some studies have suggested that eating in front of the TV encourages people to eat more, Robinson said.
According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute 22.5 percent of Americans are now obese, compared to 13 percent in 1960. Most of the increase has been in the 1990s.