Is TV a cause of Child Obesity?


Obesity has taken epidemic proportions! The best way to deal with it is to work at the root cause. Obesity needs to be challenged right at the beginning, i.e. in childhood. Research has proven that the children who suffer from obesity grow up to become obese adults. Thus tackling childhood obesity is the most effective strategy to eliminate adult obesity.

The west had woken up to the realization of the potential harm by child obesity quite some time back. Today India too has waken up towards this threat and like its counterparts in the west is trying to figure out the factors behind the problem of child obesity in order to counter them effectively. Various researches are undertaken from time to time to this effect. A noteworthy one among these was the study conducted in 2008, by The Department of Studies in Food Sciences and Nutrition, University of Mysore. It found the amount of time spent watching TV has a direct influence on child obesity. TV viewing was concluded to list among the eight elements associated to increased risk of obesity in kids. Watching TV for more than three hours a day increases the chances of the child putting on weight whereas two hours of TV viewing has been observed not to have any effect the weight of the child.

The study authors M Komala and Rudramma categorized TV viewing as an environmental risk factor for obesity. 248 School children from classes I to III from Mysore were observed to study the relation between of TV viewing and weight increase. 7.3 percent of these kids were found suffer from obesity and 9.3 percent overweight.

Another study way back in 2007 also established this causal relationship between TV viewing time and obesity in kids. 500 children between the ages 6 and 16 who came to St. John’s College Hospital, Bangalore city for minor complaints or routine check-ups were observed to evaluate physical activity patterns as determinants of weight in children. 73 percent of the children from the sample were from the urban areas. The study found that increased time spent viewing TV impacted directly on the weight of the kids. Children who spent a substantial time watching TV tend to put on more weight as compared to kids who watched lesser TV.

Though more research is required before reaching a final conclusion but the association of TV viewing with increase in weight in children just cannot be denied. Increased TV watching causes obesity in the kids by one of the following reasons:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Increased food intake during TV viewing
  • Decreased  resting metabolism

One conclusion that comes up commonly in all studies is that reducing TV watching time is a potentially effective way to beat childhood obesity.

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