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TV Plus Snacks Equals Fat Kids

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 29, 2002 -- Kids in China are watching more TV than ever before. Yet they're not getting obese like American kids. The difference: Chinese kids aren't eating snacks while they're glued to the tube.

A new study provides a snapshot of life in China today, with economic gains making it possible for more families to have TV sets. In the study, researchers surveyed a cross-section of families in nine Chinese provinces to obtain data on weight and daily habits of 1,400 urban and rural Chinese children aged 6 to 11.

The average Chinese child is watching about five hours of TV per week, still low compared with the 15 to 20-plus hours that the average American kid watches, says Carrie Wood Waller, PhD, an epidemiologist with the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

She presented her findings at the annual Experimental Biology 2002 conference.

As for their weight, 11% of Chinese boys and 7% of girls were obese. In the U.S., 20% of black boys and girls and 30% of Hispanic children are overweight.

The kids' eating habits showed the biggest difference.

Only 11% of Chinese children snacked at all, and snacks made up only 8% of their total calories for the day. However, 91% of American kids ate snacks -- and their snacks comprised almost one-quarter of their daily calories.

Chinese culture strictly allows only three meals a day, even though Western sodas and snacks are increasingly becoming available, says Waller.

Her study also showed that few of the Chinese children play video games. They spend about five hours a week studying.

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