It may surprise no one to learn that researchers have concluded the more children watch television, the more likely they are to consume unhealthy foods and beverages.
The national survey of students in grades five through 10 appears in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.
According to the study, television viewing by young people has been associated with unhealthy eating and food choices that may track into early adulthood.
Young people in the U.S. don't eat enough whole fruit, whole grains, legumes and dark green or orange vegetables. They consume too much fat, sodium and added sugar that can increase the risk of obesity and chronic disease throughout a lifetime, the authors write in their study background.
Is television at least partly to blame?
"Television viewing time was associated with lower odds of consuming fruit or vegetables daily and higher odds of consuming candy and sugar-sweetened soda daily, skipping breakfast at least one day per week and eating at a fast food restaurant at least one day per week in models adjusted for computer use, physical activity, age, sex, race/ethnicity and family affluence," the authors write.
"The relationship of television viewing with this unhealthy combination of eating behaviors may contribute to the documented relationship of TV-watching with cardiometabolic risk factors."
According to the results of the survey, the odds of eating fruits and vegetables daily were higher for younger than older students and for girls compared with boys. The odd of drinking a lot of soda were higher for boys than girls and for older students.
"Future research should elucidate the independent contributions of television viewing, food advertising and TV snacking on dietary intake in this population," the authors conclude. "If these relationships are causal, efforts to reduce viewing time or to modify the nutritional content of advertised foods may lead to substantial improvements in adolescents' dietary intake."