Television (TV) viewing is the dominant recreational pastime at all ages, especially for children and adolescents. Many studies have shown that higher TV viewing hours are associated with higher body mass index (BMI), lower levels of fitness and higher blood cholesterol levels. Although the effect size estimated from observational studies is small (with TV viewing explaining very little of the variance in BMI), the results of intervention studies show large effect sizes. The potential mediators of the effect of higher TV viewing on higher BMI include less time for physical activity, reduced resting metabolic rate (for which there is little supporting evidence) and increased energy intake (from more eating while watching TV and a greater exposure to marketing of energy dense foods). Electronic games may have an effect on unhealthy weight gain, but are less related to increased energy intake and their usage is relatively new, making effect size difficult to determine. Thus, TV viewing does not explain much of the differences in body size between individuals or the rise in obesity over time, perhaps because of the uniformly high, but relatively stable, TV viewing hours. Reducing TV viewing hours is a difficult prospect because potential actions, such as social marketing and education, are likely to be relatively weak interventions, although the evidence would suggest that, if viewing could be reduced, it could have a significant impact on reducing obesity prevalence. Regulations to reduce the heavy marketing of energy dense foods and beverages on TV may be the most effective public health measure available to minimize the impact of TV viewing on unhealthy weight gain.
Field of Research
Socio Economic Objective
920299 Health and Support Services not elsewhere classified
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