(NaturalNews) Watching TV can lead to obesity in children independently of its effects on physical activity, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
"Television viewing is related to consumption of fast food and foods and beverages that are advertised on television," the researchers said. "Viewing cartoons with embedded food commercials can increase choice of the advertised item in preschoolers, and television commercials may prompt eating."
Researchers installed monitoring devices in the TVs of 70 overweight children between the ages of four and seven. The devices also allowed researchers to set a maximum number of hours per week that a given child could use the TV screen. Over the course of the five-week study, researchers reduced some of the children's maximum weekly screen time by 10 percent per week.
All participating children normally watched TV or played video games for 14 or more hours per week. Over the course of the study, children were offered incentives, such as money or stickers, to decrease this time.
Weekly TV viewing and video-game playing decreased by an average of 5.2 hours per week in children whose screen time was unrestricted, and 17.5 hours per week in children whose use was externally restricted. Neither group of children increased in physical activity, but the children in the TV-restricted group lost more weight than the children in the other group.
According to David Katz of the Yale University School of Medicine Prevention Research Center, the study shows that TV's effects on eating habits might turn out to be more important than its effects on physical activity.
The researchers said that the method they used for reducing children's screen time shows promise for consumers, as it allows children to choose when they want to watch TV and eliminates parents' needs to enforce rules.