Everyone Eats More in Front of the TV
> 2/23/2007 2:39:12 PM

In another common-sense indictment of our children's sedentarylifestyles, a new study confirms the suspicion that they tend to eatmore high-calorie foods while watching television, whether they feelhungry or not. While this conclusion may seem obvious based onAmerica's heavily-publicized obesity epidemic and its concurrent,virtuostic television addiction, researchers move beyond popularassumptions to confirm that following the screen simply encourages kidsto sit for extended periods while snacking excessively.

The study took a unique look at the epidemic
,starting with a group of 30 kids, ages 9 to 12, whose weight measuredout to around the national average for their age. To begin, the kidswere all placed in front of computers and told to complete given tasksin order to earn half a cheesburger. After seven minutes, separategroups were established: some of the kids continued as before, wheresome were offered french fries for finishing the job and others wereplaced in front of a television while continuing to work toward thecheeseburger. The group who stayed at the computer amid repeatedcheeseburger offers seemed to lose interest in the food after eating,while those offered fries were stimulated by the introduction of a newprize and those who sat in front of the TV simply continued to eat. Inanother, equally fascinating experiment, researchers gave children aset amount of a favorite snack food and told them they could eat asmuch as they liked. Among this group, some watched a standard tv show,some watched a repeating 1 1/2 minute video loop, and some watchednothing at all. The results of this test were even more skewed thanresearchers expected: those watching the show ate more than the othertwo groups combined, while those who were shown the looped videoeventually lost interest and ate less.

While the link between junk food ads and eating habitsis well-established, this study makes it seem as if the very act ofsitting in front of the television encourages kids to overeat. Other studies indicate that,even among the adult population, people eat more frequently and consumemore calories overall when meals are accompanied by television. In asurprising turn, those with active lifestyles also reported exercisingtwenty minutes less each day, on average, when they ate in front of thetelevision. Boredom and a lack of energy - both byproducts of excessivetelevision viewing- are also major contributors to overeating. Of course, parents are central to deterring this unhealthy trend. A first step is laying out clear positions(or establishing a "tv diet" of sorts) to regulate not only what kidswatch but how much time they spend in front of the screen each day. Itcomes as no surprise that watching too much TV contributes directly toobesity, decreased cardiovascular health, and countless relatedphysical deficiencies. This latest experiment only further confirms itstrance-inducing power.

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