Watching TV Instead of Your Waistline?
Excessive Television Watching Raises Risk of Obesity, Diabetes
WebMD News Archive
April 8, 2003 (New York) -- Couch potatoes, beware! TV watching
is strongly linked to weight gain -- and even light activity can go a long way
to preventing the obesity and diabetes that commonly follows.
For the first time, new research provides proof of what many
have suspected for years -- couch potatoes and weight gain go hand in hand. But
the health risks don't just end there. The study also shows that too much TV
watching dramatically raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In addition, the health risks associated with television
watching were significantly greater than those associated with other sedentary
activities, such as sewing, reading, or driving a car. Researchers say TV
watching seems to be particularly effective at promoting weight gain because it
not only reduces physical activity, but it also encourages people to eat more
and eat unhealthy foods due to advertising and other food cues on TV.
"Couch potatoes don't move and eat more," says
researcher Frank Hu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health. "This
is the first scientific study to prove this relationship."
Hu presented the results of his study, which appears in April 9
issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, today at a
media briefing on obesity in New York City.
The study compared television viewing habits of more than
50,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study from 1992 to 1998.
During the six years of follow-up, 7.5% of the women became obese and 1,515
women developed type 2 diabetes.
Obesity is generally defined as having a body mass index (BMI,
a measurement of weight in relationship to height) of 30 or more, or weighing
20% or more than the recommended weight.
Researchers found that as TV watching increased, weight gain
also increased -- leading to more obesity and diabetes. For each two-hour
increase in television watching per day, there was a 23% rise in obesity and
14% increase in the risk of diabetes.
Although other sedentary activities also increased the risk of
weight gain and diabetes, their impact was much smaller than the women's
television viewing habits. For example, each additional two hours of sitting at
work or driving a car was associated with a 5% increase in obesity and 7%
increase in diabetes.
But the researchers found that even light activity can fight
weight gain. The study showed that for each hour of brisk walking per day the
women did, there was a 24% reduction in the risk of obesity and a 34% drop in