TV associated with higher BMI in teens

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1. Duration of primary attention to TV was associated with increased body mass index (BMI). 

2. Duration of screen use of TV, video games, and computers did not have a significant association with BMI. 

Study Rundown: With both adolescent obesity and rates of media use on the rise, researchers aimed to explore the potential interaction between BMI and adolescent attention to media. This study found that adolescent media use, specifically television, was significantly associated with BMI.  By examining the type of attention paid to screen media such as television, video games, and computers, researchers were able to show a significant correlation between primary television use and increased BMI.  However, the amount of time devoted to any one media source did not significantly correlate with BMI.  This study was limited by its sample size and low representation of ethnic minorities who are at a known increased risk for obesity. These findings bring us closer to understanding the nature of screen use in adolescents and BMI while implying that modifying adolescent television use may aid in reducing the obesity epidemic.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics on children, adolescents, obesity, and the media

In-Depth [observational study]: The study assessed the association between adolescents’ time spent watching media, attention paid to media (television, video games, and computers), and BMI.  The study recruited 91, 13-15 year olds who had their BMIs calculated and media use assessed over the course of 1 week.  Media use was measured through the Measuring Youth Media Exposure (MYME) system. MYME uses two, daily recall time-use diaries) in addition to intermittent survey completion throughout the participant’s day.  Participants were also asked to note additional activities and their level of attentiveness to each stimulus. Attention was later categorized as either primary or secondary/tertiary.  Most media time was spent watching television. Results showed a significant, positive association between primary attention to television and BMI.  Those in the 75th percentile of primary attention paid to television were found to have an average BMI 2.4 mg2/kg greater than those in the 25th percentile (p<.01).  However, when the data were analyzed without accounting for attentiveness, there was no significant correlation between duration of media use and BMI.  

By Laurel Wickberg and Leah H. Carr

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