Watching TV and level of activity in children appear to be associated independently of each other with risk factors that may influence the chance that children have of developing metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes) and cardiovascular diseases in later life.
An ongoing study, the European Youth Heart Study is examining the nature, strength, and interactions between personal, environmental, and lifestyle influences on later risk of these diseases. As part of this study, European researchers questioned 1,921 children from three regions in Portugal, Estonia and Denmark on the hours of TV viewed and measured their activity over a 4 day period. They also measured six metabolic-risk factors (body fatness, blood pressure, fasting triglycerides, inverted high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, glucose, and insulin levels and calculated a metabolic risk score for each child based on these risk factors.
The researchers showed that there was a positive association between TV viewing and adiposity (fatness), but not with the overall risk score. However, the physical activity of the children was independently and inversely associated with systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin, triglycerides and with the overall risk score, independently of obesity and other factors.
TV viewing has previously been linked to metabolic-risk factors in youth. However, it had been unclear whether this association was independent of physical activity and obesity. This study showed that TV viewing and physical activity should be considered as separate entities as they are differently associated with adiposity and metabolic risk. The authors conclude that "preventive action against metabolic risk in children may need to target TV viewing and physical activity separately." These results will be presented during the International Diabetes Federation 19th International meeting in Cape Town on Thursday the 7th December.
In a related Perspective article, Andrew Prentice and Susan Jebb, who were not involved in the study, discuss further the implications of these findings.
Citation: Ekelund U, Brage S, Froberg K, Harro M, Anderssen SA, et al. (2006) TV viewing and physical activity are independently associated with metabolic risk in children: The European youth heart study. PLoS Med 3(12): e488. (http://dx.doi/org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030488)
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