Adults who watch more than two hours of TV a day tend to weigh more than people who watch less. What’s more, research has shown that the more TV you watch, the more likely you are to develop Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or suffer from premature death.
Americans are watching more TV than ever before, logging in an average of five hours a day. It’s no secret that spending hours in front of the television isn’t the healthiest of habits. But studies show that people are more likely eat high-fat, high-calorie foods while watching the small screen (or the big screen). Research has proven that eating in front of a television set does, in fact, lead to an increase in bad caloric consumption and a decrease in the consumption of healthy foods such as vegetables. Not to mention that you don’t burn many calories sitting in front of the tube.
Adults who watch more than two hours of TV a day increase their daily caloric intake by 137 calories versus those adults who only watch less than an hour of television per day. Although this doesn’t sound like much, it can equal out to be about an extra 14.3 pounds per year of weight!
Children who watch more television have higher body weights than children who watch less.
There is also a strong association between the number of hours of television watched and the degree of obesity in children. One explanation is that almost anything you do other than watch TV uses more energy. Another explanation is TV advertising to children, given that more than 95% of commercials are for food products high in fat, sugar and salt. Children are bombarded with TV ads telling them that bad food is good and they are seduced into wanting them.
Children eat 45% less snack food when they watch cartoons without junk food advertisements, according to studies, compared to children who had watch the same cartoons, but without those ads — so turn off the tube!
Watching more than two hours a day of TV a day puts you at a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and an early death.
TV viewing is blamed as contributing to the rise in obesity in the United States and other developed countries. And it’s well established that being overweight or obese can lead to many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Eight large studies looked at the relationship between TV time and the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or a premature death, comparing 200,000 people for seven to 10 years.
Their findings? For every two hours of TV a person watched daily, their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes went up by 20%, their risk of heart disease climbed by 15%, and their risk of dying early (from any cause) rose by 13%. The researchers estimated that for every 100,000 people, this would mean 176 new cases of diabetes each year, 38 new cases of fatal heart disease, and 104 premature deaths.
In other articles I have written, I talked about living a healthier lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease — stop smoking, start exercising, and eat healthier foods. Now, add watching less TV to the list. Doing this will help you live healthier and longer.
Jeff Kreisberg is a patient advocate, educator, scientist author of the book “Taking Control of Your Healthcare,” and, until his retirement, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. Jeff also blogs regularly on health issues on his website, Taking Control of Your Healthcare. Follow him on Twitter: @kreisberg.