Parents may want to limit electronic media at mealtime

Jan. 2, 2014, Reuters

Parents who let their teens use electronic devices or watch TV during family meals tend to serve less nutritious food and have poorer family communication, a new study suggests.

Experts have suggested turning the TV off at mealtime for years. But with the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices, kids can bring all kinds of media with them to the table.

“The findings of this most recent paper showed that mealtime media use is common among families with adolescents but that setting rules around media use at meals may reduce media use among teens and have other positive benefits as well,” lead author Jayne A. Fulkerson told Reuters Health in an email. Continue reading

Screen time again linked to kids’ extra weight

Nov. 25, 2013, Reuters

Children and teenagers who spend lots of time in front of screens – especially TVs – tend to gain more weight as they age, according to a new study.

The findings are consistent with research suggesting all that idle sitting and exposure to advertisements may fuel poor eating habits…

Many parents believe their children are getting a reasonable amount of recreational screen time, Mark Tremblay said. But most U.S. and Canadian kids exceed the recommended two-hour maximum per day.

“We don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s half an hour here, half an hour there, an hour here, an hour there,” Tremblay told Reuters Health. He is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and wasn’t involved in the new study.

Researchers used data from a long-term study of kids who took surveys every other year. The surveys included questions about their height and weight as well as how much time they spent watching TV and DVDs and playing computer and video games. Continue reading

Study: Screen time contributes to weight gain despite exercise

Oct. 8, 2013, Perth Now

By Susie O’Brien and Katrina Stokes

Even a large amount of exercise does not cancel out “bum time” — periods spent in front of TVs and computers, according to researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The study of 144 active children found those who were normal weight spent an average of 140 minutes less a week on screens than those who were overweight. The two groups did almost exactly the same amount of exercise — more than 90 minutes a day.

Researcher Dr. Rachael Sharman also found children in teams, clubs, or formal exercise lessons were less likely than other kids to “trade off” physical activity for screen time. Continue reading

Sports superstars endorse sugary, fatty foods

Oct. 7, 2013, Reuters

When Miami Heat star LeBron James isn’t scoring baskets, he’s busy — selling soda, sports drinks, and fast food.

But James isn’t alone. In a new study, many top U.S. athletes, from Peyton Manning to Serena Williams, were all over television promoting food and drinks, most of which aren’t very healthy.

“We see these people — they’ve obviously (reached the top) of sports achievement, they’re obviously living a healthy lifestyle — and they’re endorsing these foods. And that kind of lends an aura of healthfulness to these foods and beverages that they don’t deserve,” said Emma Boyland, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

“The message is really getting mixed up,” added Boyland. She studies marketing and children’s food choices but didn’t work on the new research. Continue reading

Changing up family routines can help kids shed pounds

Sept. 9, 2013, daily RX

There is more to combating obesity than ensuring that children eat healthy food. There are other factors that can increase children’s risk of obesity — and they can be addressed within a family.

A recent study found that adjusting a couple household routines in low-income, racially diverse families could help reduce children’s weight.

The most successful routines involved increasing the amount of time that children sleep and decreasing the time they spend watching TV on weekdays.

Children in families making these changes saw a small but significant drop in their average body mass index (BMI). BMI is a ratio of a person’s height to weight that is used to determine if they are a healthy weight or not. Continue reading

More exercise beats less TV for growing healthier kids

April 27, 2013, MedPage Today

By Charlene Laino

When it comes to improving kids’ heart health, which is more important? Exercising more or sitting around less?

The answer, according to a study that tested youngsters in a real-world setting, is exercising more.

The researchers studied 536 white children ages 8-10 who had at least one obese biological parent. The goal was to examine the combined associations between time spent in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity and time spent in sedentary activities in relation to cardiometabolic risk factors. Continue reading

Not all screens are equal when it comes to obesity risk: TV may have greatest effect

April 8, 2013, TIME

By Bonnie Rochman

Sitting in front of a screen can increase the risk of obesity, but TV seems to have a larger effect on weight than computers or video games.

Computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets are all responsible for keeping more kids more sedentary and mesmerized by a screen, but a new study in Pediatrics found some surprising differences among these devices and their relationship to childhood obesity. It turns out that only television — in particular, paying close attention to what’s on the tube — is associated with heavier kids. In a study of young teens, 14-year-old boys who reported paying the most attention to what was playing on television weighed 14.2 pounds more than boys who reported paying the least attention. For girls, the difference was 13.5 pounds. Continue reading

Screen time not linked to kids’ physical activity

Jan. 10, 2013, Reuters

By Genevra Pittman

Just four in 10 U.S. kids met dual national guidelines for getting enough physical activity and for limiting “screen time,” researchers found – but the likelihood of kids exercising regularly didn’t depend on whether they kept away from screens.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as, if a child is not watching television, then by default that child will be physically active,” said the study’s lead author, Tala Fakhouri, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Continue reading