Study: As little as an hour of TV linked to childhood obesity

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – How much is too much TV for kids? A new study shows it might not take as much as you think to put children at an increased risk for obesity. The study shows kindergartners who watch more than an hour of TV a day are 50 percent more likely to be overweight than those who don’t and 70 percent more likely to be obese.

“In today’s age, we don’t open our door and let our child go play and have them come back at dinner time,” said Catherine Nicolaou, the mother of a 3-year-old with one on the way. “As parents, we have to be with our children at all times when they’re in our care. The reality is it is tricky to take care of your household, to take care of your business and to take care of your children all at the same time.”

Her daughter, Sofia, usually watches some TV when she gets home from preschool, but she knows the rules.

“I can’t watch TV after dinner because there’s no TV after 7 p.m.,” Sofia said.

We asked how she felt about that rule.

“I feel sad because I like TV so much,” she said.

UNM Hospital’s Dr. Victor Strasburger helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ current recommendation of no more than two hours of TV a day for kids.

“We have caught holy hell for making that recommendation,” Dr. Strasburger said.

He said there was resistance despite the fact that the recommendation was based on multiple, long-term studies. Now, new research suggests even less TV-time could do some harm.

Dr. Mark DeBoer, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, presented the data at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego, which wrapped up on Tuesday. Based on an analysis of data from 12,650 children, the study determined the average kindergartner watches more than three hours of TV a day.

“It’s thought provoking,” Dr. Strasburger said. “I mean, how much time is too much time in front of a screen?”

Still, he said this study alone is not enough to cut the two-hour TV limit down to one.

“It’s one study. It’s a good study, incredibly large numbers done by good people, but it needs to be repeated and verified,” he said.

Either way, Sofia’s mother said studies like these are a good reminder for parents.

“A lot of families, both parents are working so they’re doing the best they can,” she said. “It’s about having a balance.”

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