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TVs in the bedroom linked to childhood obesity, study finds

PROBLEM: Childhood obesity

NEW RESEARCH shows that children who have a television in their bedroom at the age of seven are more likely to become overweight.

“Ironically, while our screens have become flatter, our children have become fatter,” say the authors of the study from University College London (UCL).

Sitting still for long periods watching TV has long been thought to be one of the changes in behaviour of the last few decades that could be powering the obesity epidemic.

The researchers used data on more than 12,000 children born in 2000/2001 who were recruited to the UK Millennium Cohort Study, set up to look at the influences on children’s development into adulthood. They investigated the data from the age of seven to 11. More than half had a TV in their bedroom.

It has been suspected that having a TV in the bedroom might exacerbate the problem. Children or adolescents might be snacking unobserved, they could be exposed to advertising for junk food while watching adult programmes and they may not sleep as well, which is also linked to putting on weight.

“Childhood obesity in the UK is a major public health problem. In England, about one-third of all 11 year olds are overweight and one in five are obese. Our study shows that there is a clear link between having a TV in the bedroom as a young child and being overweight a few years later,” said lead author Dr Anja Heilmann from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care.

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