It’s long been held that sitting in front of the television for extended periods, and not getting exercise, may lead to childhood obesity. But now, new research suggests it’s the TV commercials kids watch that lead to the problem, according to a story in the New York Times.
In a study of more than 2,000 children, researchers from UCLA compared the time the kids spent viewing television and video. They asked caregivers to track children’s media use during one weekday and one weekend day during 1997, then again in 2002.
The findings showed that the amount of television a child watched wasn’t a predictor of obesity risk. Instead, risk for being overweight increased the more television commercials a child was exposed to. There was no association with television viewing and obesity for those who watched videos or commercial-free programming.
Fred Zimmerman, the study’s lead author and chairman of UCLA’s Department of Health Services, said television commercials for sweetened cereals, junk food and fast food chains probably had an bad influence over a child’s food preferences.
The more television commercials a child is exposed to, the more likely he or she will be to try those foods and want to continue eating them, which then increases risk for weight gain.