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Too Much Television for Teens Increases Chances of Fast Food Junkie Young Adults

Thursday, February 19, 2009 by: Reuben Chow, citizen journalist
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(NaturalNews) When we slouch on the couch and spend hours staring at that colorful electronic box called a television, we are actually, subconsciously, taking in hours of subtle indoctrination via TV commercials. At the same time, we are also allowing ourselves to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle, snacking on junk food as a complementary habit. And these cause-and-effect links are very real, as revealed in a recent University of Minnesota study, which found that teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV each day are more likely to become fast food junkies when they reach young adulthood.

Details and Findings of Study

The study, published online in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, had looked at data on 1,366 students from high school and 564 students from middle school. Information on the number of hours every day which the students spent watching TV was collated and compared with information on their dietary habits five years later as they reached young adulthood.

The researchers found that high school students who watched over 5 hours of TV each day consumed less fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods as young adults, and instead had a higher intake of fast food, fried foods, snack foods, sugary drinks as well as foods with trans fats.

It seems the advertisements for fast food restaurants and other similar junk foods are having an impact. "Television watching impacts diet choices adolescents make five years later," said Daheia Barr-Anderson, an assistant professor of kinesiology and the leader of the study. She further conjectured that snacking during TV time makes the young ones more likely to eat the foods which are being advertised.

Important Issues

This study has brought our attention to an important issue – the impact of the media is real and very pronounced. "This research tugs not so gently at the wool in front of all of our eyes – revealing that heavy TV viewing, especially of food advertising – makes a difference to our children`s diets," said Frederick J Zimmerman, an assistant professor at the Child Health Institute of the University of Washington.

"This research suggests that heavy TV-viewing adolescents consume about 200 more calories per day than those who watch a moderate amount of TV. That is a lot of calories by anyone`s count," he said. Zimmerman also added that these findings will not be unexpected for people familiar with research connecting TV, advertising and diet.

Parents Must Take Note

The kids are, well, still very young, and it is clear that parents have an important role to play in influencing their habits and choices. This is another key issue which we need to take note of. "Parents need to adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics` recommendation that children watch less than two hours of quality television per day," said Barr-Anderson.

"Parents need to restrict what their kids are eating and try and provide a better example for their kids, making sure they are getting the nutrients and proper food that they need as opposed to the high-fatty foods, high-sugar foods, low-nutrient-dense foods," she added.

Kimberly M Thompson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at the Harvard School of Public Health, agreed that parents play a critical role. And this applies whether the cause of bad food choices is the TV ads, the lapsing into sedentary lifestyles, or both.

"This study is a clear wake-up call that entertainment media matter when it comes to health. Given the current obesity and overweight crisis in America, this study provides clear evidence that kids and parents should make a point of reducing sedentary time spent in front of a TV screen," she said.

The Young are in Trouble

Another recent worrying study on the state of health of our young ones include how poor sleep and lack of sleep were found to be causing heightened blood pressure, or a state of "prehypertension", in healthy adolescents. This increase could not be explained by other factors such as obesity, socioeconomic status or known comorbidities. Read more about that study at http://www.naturalnews.com/024330.html.

Even more alarming was what a study which was presented at the American Heart Association`s 2008 annual meeting in New Orleans revealed – that children and teenagers had arteries which were as degenerated as middle aged adults. The study had found that more than 50% of the 70 young persons who were involved in the study were, by "vascular age" terms, about 3 decades older than their actual age. Read more about that study at http://www.naturalnews.com/025096.html.

Intuitively, we could probably link all the adverse health effects. Too much late night TV, for example, would be a contributing factor for lack of sleep, while overindulgence in junk foods also harms arterial and heart health.

What can parents do?

"For those looking to nudge their families in the right direction, implement a rule in your home of no eating while the TV is on. Or if that`s too tough, then insist that only fruits and vegetables and water get consumed while viewing TV. You could also require that for every hour of TV viewed, each member of the family needs to engage in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise," suggested Thompson.

Sources

Adult Fast-Food Diets Tied to Too Much TV as Teen (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy…)

Sleep quality and elevated blood pressure in adolescents. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/…)

Obese Kids Have Middle-Aged Arteries (http://www.newsweek.com/id/168702)

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