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Is All That TV Killing You?

Study suggests more than 3 hours daily doubles chance of early death, but one expert questions the connection
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People tend to consume more processed foods and sugary drinks when they watch TV, so the researchers adjusted their results to control for the effects of added snacks and sweetened drinks. Again, the results got stronger.

They continued to try to eliminate things that might explain the results, such as smoking, age, sex, weight, and whether or not people followed a Mediterranean diet. Nothing seemed to really affect the results.

It's not the first study to find a link between TV time and premature death. But, the new research didn't prove that prolonged TV watching leads to an early death, it just found a connection between the two.

Experts not involved with the research said caution is warranted in interpreting the results.

"This is an interesting study, which raises interesting questions," said Dr. Lennert Veerman, a senior research fellow in public health at the University of Queensland, in Australia.

He said the link between TV viewing and early death is probably an indirect one. The more time people spend watching TV, the less time they have for things that are known to prolong life, such as seeing friends or exercising, he said.

And he thinks the current study still failed to account for some potentially important factors such as mental health, unemployment and alcohol use.

"I personally still think it is most likely that TV viewing was more a risk indicator than a cause of deaths," Veerman said.

But Gonzalez thinks time in front of the tube, alone, could be hazardous to a person's health.

"The time we spend watching television is a highly sedentary time," he said.

When driving or working at a computer, people at least move a little.

"You have tension in your muscles. You are moving little parts of your body, like your hands. You are not completely relaxed as you are when you are watching television," he said.

"For me, the major take-home message is to avoid spending many continuous hours watching television, to limit the time to one or at most two hours a day," Gonzalez said.

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