Watching TV Can Increase Your Child’s Waistline

By Amir Khan on July 16, 2012 10:01 AM EDT

BABY TV
Who you surround yourself with could have a large implication on your waist size. (Photo: Creative Commons: yoshimov)

Watching too much TV can cause your child's waistline to expand, according to a new study, published in the journal BioMed Central. Researchers found that children who watch too much TV between the ages of two and four years old may have a larger waistline by age 10.

Experts say that children should not watch more than two hours of television daily. Researchers found that, at the beginning of the study, many children watched more than 8 hours per week. As the study went on, TV viewing time increased to 14.8 hours per week by age four-and-a-half. More than 15 percent of the 1,300 children involved in the study were watching 18 or more hours of TV per week.

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Researchers found that watching that much television at age 4.5 resulted in an extra quarter-inch of fat around the child's belly by age 10. And while that may not sound like much, on a small child it's a big problem.

A child's waist size impacts more than appearance, according to the study. Large amounts of abdominal fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, back pain and other ailments in both children and adults.

"The bottom line is that watching too much television - beyond the recommended amounts - is not good," Dr. Linda Pagani, study author and researcher at the University of Montreal, told BBC News.

Researchers hope the findings can help curb in the rising rate of childhood obesity.

More than 12.5 million American children ages 2 through 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of obese children has tripled since 1980. Health care costs related to childhood obesity totaled $3 billion in 2009, according to a study published in Nature.

Rahil Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News that the findings don't mean TV is necessarily evil.

"But it [TV viewing] comes at the expense of other age-appropriate and healthy things children should be doing," she said. "There are only so many hours in the day, and if children are watching TV, that's cutting into the hours of the day they could be doing something active."

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