High Television Viewing Predicts Poor Dietary Habits

Increased television viewing associated with high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, fast and fried foods

MONDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Increased television viewing in middle and high school students predicts poor dietary habits in subsequent years, possibly due to increased advertising exposure, according to research published online Jan. 30 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Daheia J. Barr-Anderson, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues performed a survey of 564 middle school and 1,366 high school students between 1998 and 1999. The investigators followed this with a follow-up survey five years later. The mean age of participants at follow-up was 17.2 years and 20.5 years for the middle and high school student cohorts, respectively.

Survey participants were grouped into three categories of television viewing: limited (fewer than two hours daily), moderate (two to five hours daily), and heavy (greater than five hours daily). Among middle schoolers, heavy television viewers at the first survey reported lower intake of fruit and higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages at the follow-up survey, the investigators found. A similar association was found in high schoolers, with those reporting heavy television viewing at the first survey less likely to consume healthy foods and more likely to consume fried foods, fast food, snack products and sugar-sweetened beverages, the researchers report.

"In addition to devising interventions to reduce television viewing time in adolescents, health professionals may need to develop interventions focusing on the promotion of healthy food choices, in general and while watching television, and overcoming media influences," the authors write.

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