Studies conclude: TV makes kids fat
Photo courtesy The
Future of Children
By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service
March 1, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Two studies released Wednesday
by the American Heart Association at the 47th annual conference
on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention shed light
on the eating habits of children.
One study found a correlation between hours of television watched
by 3-year-olds and the development of poor eating habits. Another
study found that impoverished children and children who were members
of a minority group were more likely to be obese.
According to Dr. Nadine Burke, medical director of the Bayview
Child Health Center, the results of both studies are related.
Burke said there were fewer opportunities to play outside in
lower income communities. As a result, children may sit inside
and watch TV, causing them to become unhealthy.
"One of the main reasons increased TV watching is associated
with obesity is not only because watching TV burns less calories
than sleeping, but because watching TV is often associated with
mindless snacking. You are likely to eat more calories in front
of TV because you are not paying attention to your intake,"
Additionally, Burke said, "Commercials on TV are all for
sugar cereals and fast food, which makes kids want to beg their
parents for it."
She said many junk food ads are specifically targeted towards
children and air after school or on Saturday mornings.
However, it was through a television program that Burke decided
to reach out to low income children in San Francisco's Bayview
Burke worked with a 12-year-old Bayview boy named Christopher
for a reality TV show called "Let's Just Play," which
airs on Nickelodeon.
Burke said she and Christopher found ways to make his community
healthier. Christopher "met and talked to the food preparation
person at his school, talked to his school principle and met with
director of district nutrition discussing ways he could help improve
nutrition," said Burke.
At the end of the series, she said Nickelodeon "went off
the air for three hours so kids would go outside and play, which
is unheard of for a major network."
Burke admitted it was paradoxical that one of the reasons Christopher
inspired his community to get healthy was because he represented
them on a national television show.
"It's a big part of public health to begin by meeting people
where they are. If people are watching TV and that is more likely
to make them unhealthy and obese, you can start with a TV program
and use the same medium that a lot of unhealthy corporations like
McDonald's and these companies use to entice people to eat their
food, to address a national problem like obesity."
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