TV Zaps Children's Fruits and Vegetables
The More TV Children Watch, the Fewer Fruits and Veggies They Eat
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 8, 2003 -- Television may be killing children's eating
habits. A new study shows that the more television children watch, the fewer
healthy fruits and vegetables they eat.
The results indicate that watching TV not only contributes to
children's bulging waistlines by making them less physically active, but it
also negatively affects their food choices.
Researchers say that children spend more time watching
television than engaging in any other activity except sleep. On average,
children between 2 and 17 watch an average of 22 hours of television a
Although prior studies have linked TV viewing to childhood
obesity, researchers say that until now little was known about how television
affects children's eating choices
TV Kills Kids' Fruits and Veggies
The study, published in the December issue of
Pediatrics, tracked the TV viewing and fruit and vegetable consumption
of 548 seventh grade public school students for 19 months from 1995 to
At the start of the study, the children reported eating an
average of 4.23 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is below the
recommended five servings per day. The children also reported watching an
average of more than three hours of television per day.
Researchers found that after adjusting for other factors, such
as frequency of sit-down dinners and physical activity, the number of fruit and
vegetables servings the children ate per day decreased by 0.16 with every
additional hour of television viewing reported at the start of the study. That
translates to one less serving every six days.
In addition, the number of fruits and vegetable servings
decreased by another 0.14 servings per day for each hour increase in TV
watching reported at the end of the study.
Researchers say that means the average child who watched three
hours per day of television at the start of the study and increased his or her
television viewing by one hour per day over the course of the study had 2.25
fewer servings of fruits and vegetables per week or up to 110 fewer servings
per year than those who did not watch television.
How TV Affects Children's Eating Habits
Researchers say the commercials children are exposed to may be
to blame for the negative impact of TV on their eating habits. Children 2 to 11
years old are exposed to an average of 150 to 200 hours of commercial messages
or 20,000 commercials a year.
Previous studies have shown that more than half of those
commercials are for food, and little of this marketing is aimed at fruits and
vegetables. Many of the commercials targeted at kids also contain misleading
messages of about the nutritional value of the foods advertised.
For example, one study showed that more than 90% of cereal
advertisements asserted that the food was part of a "balanced" or
Researchers say that kids may also be turned off by food
commercials that tout the nutritional content of the food and are encouraged to
replace fruits and vegetables with other products that are marketed as
"nutritious" but are in fact of little nutritional value.