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TV Worsens Children's Diabetes

Kids' Type 1 Diabetes Control Slips With Each Daily TV Hour
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 25, 2007 - Kids' type1 diabetes control slips with each daily hour of TV watching, a Norwegian study shows.

The health of children with type 1 diabetes depends on keeping their blood-sugar levels under control. Exercise and a healthy diet are important for controlling blood sugar.

Does TV viewing have a negative impact on kids with childhood diabetes? University of Oslo researcher Hanna D. Margeirsdottir, MD, and colleagues tried to find out.

The researchers studied the TV-viewing habits and computer-use habits of 538 children with type 1 diabetes. The kids' average age was 13.

Like their American counterparts, more than half the kids went over the two-hours-of-TV-a-day limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Margeirsdottir and colleagues matched the kids' TV habits to their HbA1c levels -- a measure of blood-sugar control over the last few months. The American Diabetes Association recommends that HbA1c levels be less than 7%.

The researchers found that as TV viewing time crept upward, so did the children's HbA1c levels:

  • Average HbA1c was 8.2% for the 11% of children who watched TV for less than an hour a day.
  • Average HbA1c was 8.4% for the 35% of children who watched TV for one to two hours a day.
  • Average HbA1c was 8.7% for the 31% of children who watched TV for two to three hours a day.
  • Average HbA1c was 8.8% for the 14% of children who watched TV for three to four hours a day.
  • Average HbA1c was 9.5% for the 9% of children who watched TV for four or more hours a day.

Computer time was not linked to children's blood-sugar control.

"It takes very little energy to sit in front of the tube," Margeirsdottir says in a news release. "The time spent watching TV could otherwise be spent on activities that require a lot more exertion and burn more calories. What's more, TV viewing tends to be associated with snacking and may lead to poor eating habits."

The study appears in the June issue of Diabetes Care.

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