How much time children spend watching television is a better predictor of obesity than what they eat or how much physical activity they get, a new study has found.
The research, done in New Zealand, tracked more than 1,000 children born in 1972 and 1973 from ages 5 to 15.
Every two years, the researchers calculated their body mass index.
They also recorded television watching habits, based on reports from the children and their parents.
By the age of 26, when the participants were examined again, 41 percent were overweight or obese, and their body mass indexes were closely related to the amount of television they had watched as children.
And this association held even when factors like parents' weight and socioeconomic status were taken into account.
The researchers speculated that the amount of time children spent watching television was closely related to how much they ate and how much they exercised.
The study was published online in The International Journal of Obesity.
Dr. Robert J. Hancox of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, the lead author of the study, said that reducing the time children spent in front of the television set might be a reasonable way to reduce their risk of obesity.
"This would mean that they did something else with their time," he said.
"Whatever it was, it would probably be more energetic, and would also reduce the influence of all those TV ads for junk food, fizzy drinks, sweets, and so on."
But Dr. Hancox said he was not optimistic.
"I think this would be a good thing for parents to try," he said, "but many of them might find it hard to get the TV tuned off for long."
Summarized by Copernic Summarizer