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Connections Between Commercial Television And Childhood Obesity

A new study finds that the consumption of commercial television by children may be a contributing factor to childhood obesity.

old television set

Photo: dailyinvention

A recent UCLA study found that commercial television is more closely linked to childhood obesity than non-commercial television.

As a follow-up to our post from earlier in the week on First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s new “Let’s Move” initiative to combat childhood obesity, we noticed an interesting observation over on Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics. Nestle talks about an issue that Michelle Obama’s initiative fails to address: the effects of commercial television on childrens’ food consumption.

Not All TV Is Bad TV, Say UCLA Researchers

Nestle cites a recent study (PDF, 108KB) conducted by the Department of Health at the University of California Los Angeles. The study finds that, while we may intuitively link obesity to general television viewing because of its sedentary nature, it is actually not ALL television that causes an increase in the weight of children.

The study compared the viewing habits of a group of children in 1997 and then compared their Body Mass Index (BMI)s in 2002. The study found that commercial television is more closely linked to childhood obesity than non-commercial television (you’re a member of your local PBS station right ;) ).

Apparently, the advertising of fattening foods does have an affect on the eating habits of children.

There are many contributing factors to what children are eating and to their television viewing habits: most notably, the role their parents play in their food and television choices.

So, interestingly, the study claims to have controlled for the mothers’ (however, not the fathers?) education level and BMI, and neither of these had any significant effect on the results.

Impact On The “Let’s Move” Initiative

Nestle believes the findings of this study illuminate a shortcoming in the First Lady’s campaign to combat childhood obesity and calls for action in Congress. Whether the family education component of the “Let’s Move” initiative will address television consumption is yet to be seen.

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Laura Bult

Laura Bult is a spring intern with Earth Eats and a senior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies, with minors in English Literature and Spanish.

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