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Too much screen time linked to a child's risk of being overweight

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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NEW European research has found that children who spend a lot of time in front of a screen also appear to have an increased risk of being overweight and developing abdominal obesity, regardless of how active they are.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, the Cancer Registry of Norway, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, the new study looked at 10,288 Finnish children between 9 and 12 years of age.

The children were classified as light, medium, or heavy screen users, which included viewing TV shows and films on any screen-based device and using computers, and having a low, medium, or high level of physical activity.

The researchers also recorded the children's height, weight, and waist circumference.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, showed that after taking into account age, sex, language, sleep duration, and exercise, heavy TV viewers and heavy computer users had a higher risk of both being overweight and having abdominal obesity.

The researchers also found that watching a lot of television was associated with overweight and abdominal obesity in all children, even in those who exercised the most.

The team did stress, however, that the study does not show a cause and effect relationship.

“It must be noted that this cross-sectional study does not reveal anything about causality. It may be that overweight children spend more time in front of screens, or that abundant screen time may result in overweight,” explains researcher Elina Engberg.

“Neither did the study measure the intensity of exercise; the participants were only asked about the amount of time they spent exercising in their free time. Further research on the combined effect of screen time, physical activity, and diet on children's weight is needed.”

However, considering how prevalent screen time is in modern society, the findings indicate that strategies to reduce sedentary screen time could be effective in tackling the high rates of overweight and obesity among children, according to the researchers.

— AFP


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