TV and Soda Linked to Childhood Obesity
Diet or Not, too Much Soda in Front of the TV May Put Kids at Risk
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 8, 2003 -- It's no surprise that kids who drink large
quantities of soda or spend too much time in front of the television are more
likely to be obese than other kids. But a new study suggests that it's not just
the lack of physical activity or sugar in the soda that's to blame.
Researchers found that school children that drink large
quantities of diet soft drinks were just as likely as those who gulped sugary
ones to suffer from childhood obesity, and watching TV was much worse for their
waistlines than playing video games or surfing the Internet.
The study shows that sixth- and seventh-grade students who
watched more than two hours of TV a night or drank more than three soft drinks
per day were more likely to have a higher BMI (body mass index, a measure of
weight in relation to height used to indicate childhood obesity) than
The results appear in the September issue of the Archives of
Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Study Sheds New Light on Childhood Obesity
Researchers say the findings suggest that experts still have a
lot to learn about the current epidemic of childhood obesity.
The prevalence of childhood obesity has doubled since the
1970s, and obesity is a known risk factor for a number of health problems,
including high blood pressure and diabetes.
Although watching television and soft drink consumption have
been linked to childhood obesity in the past, the study shows the link runs
deeper than previously thought.
"The findings that overweight and obesity were not
associated with computer use and that they were associated with diet soft drink
consumption indicate that it is neither the sedentary activity alone nor the
calories in the soft drinks alone that can be implicated as a cause of
obesity," write researcher Joyce Giammattei, DrPH, and colleagues of Loma
Instead, researchers say that TV viewing and soft drink
consumption may both be indicators of increased calorie intake because of other
For example, television viewing is easily accompanied by eating
and also includes frequent food-related advertisements that may induce more
eating. In contrast, computer use is less conducive to eating because it keeps
both hands busy and there is less exposure to food ads.
In addition, researchers write soft drinks -- diet and regular
-- are routinely served with calorie-rich foods, such as high-fat, fast food
burgers and fries.
Lifestyle Affects Childhood Obesity Risk
During the study, researchers surveyed 319 sixth- and
seventh-grade students in California and collected information on their height,
weight, and lifestyle habits.
They found that 35% of the students had a BMI at or above the
85th percentile (indicating being overweight) and half of these
students had a BMI at or above the 95th percentile (indicating
obesity). BMIs also tended to be higher among Latino students and lower among
Asian students compared with non-Hispanic, white children.