Children who exceed guidelines on watching too much television are more likely to be overweight and have more body fat, according to a Baylor College of Medicine-led study published today in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
"It's important for pre-schoolers to watch less than two hours of television each day, and what they are watching should ideally have an educational aspect," said Dr. Jason Mendoza, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and a researcher at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center. "Parents should try to turn the TV off as often as possible and do other activities such as play and read."
The study shows that while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 2 and over limit media time to two hours or less per day, nearly 31 percent of U.S. pre-school children exceed this limit. The cross-sectional study was conducted using nationally representative data on children aged 2 to 5 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002.
The study also reports that pre-school children who use a computer are likely to have more body fat than those who do not.
Mendoza, the principal investigator of the study, said these findings have broad public health implications given the current epidemic of childhood obesity.
According to Mendoza, research has shown that children start to develop life-long habits for nutrition and physical activity at a young age. If they are healthier at a young age, they are more likely to keep these habits and have an easier time leading a healthy life as they get older. It is difficult to change habits once they are ingrained, he said.