Higher odds of overweight/obesity
The ongoing epidemic of childhood obesity underscores a need for lifestyle interventions. While the amount of television viewing time has been linked to obesity in many age ranges, the association between TV viewing time, computer use, and obesity is unclear among kindergarteners. Additionally, there is a need for updated information on the TV viewing habits of young children currently growing up in the US. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch less than two hours of TV daily, the appropriate guidelines most conducive to a healthy weight status remain unknown.
Efforts to fight the childhood obesity epidemic have focused on getting kids to be more active. The first lady launched the Let’s Move initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Let’s Move! aims to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and to create new opportunities for families to move together.
In this new study , Dr. Mark D. DeBoer, MD, MSc, MCR, associate professor of pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia and colleagues examined the relationship between TV viewing and weight status in a recent large cohort of kindergarteners across the US.
The research team examined data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort 2011, of 11,113 children who were in kindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year. As part of the study by the National Center for Education Statistics, lifestyle factors that could affect a child’s educational performance were collected from parents, including the number of hours of television children watched on weekdays and weekends, and how often they used computers. In addition, children’s weight and height were measured.
A year later, 10,853 of the children’s height and weight were measured, and parents again were asked about their child’s TV habits.
The results showed US kindergarten children watched a mean of 3.30 hours of television daily, in comparison to children watching less than 30 minutes or 30 to 60 minutes. Both kindergartners and first-graders who watched one to two hours or more than two hours daily had significantly higher BMI z-scores compared to children who watched less than 30 minutes or 30 to 60 minutes a day even after adjustment for potentially important confounders.
Both kindergartners and first-graders who viewed TV as little as one hour a day had higher odd of being overweight by 50 to 60 percent and 58 percent to 73 percent more likely to be obese compared to children watching TV for less than one hour. Computer use, however, was not associated with higher weight.
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.
According to Dr. DeBoer, “Given overwhelming evidence connecting the amount of time TV viewing and unhealthy weight, pediatricians and parents should attempt to restrict childhood TV viewing. Given the data presented in this study, the AAP may wish to lower its recommended TV viewing allowance/”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting children and teens to less than two hours of screen time each day. Dr. DeBoer, however, said even that might be too much.
Dr. DeBoer will present “Viewing as Little as 1 Hour of Television Daily Is Associated with Higher Weight Status in Kindergartners: The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study” from 1-1:30 p.m. PT Sunday, April 26.
Viewing as Little as 1 Hour of Television Daily Is Associated with Higher Weight Status in Kindergartners: The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study” Abstract
American Academy of Pediatrics Public Release