US research supports link between television and adolescent food choices

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th May 2012

A nationwide survey of US students, funded by the US government, is the latest research to link television viewing with unhealthy eating habits in adolescents.

The national survey of students in the fifth grade (10-11 year olds) to 10th grade (15-16 year olds), published on Monday 7 May 2012, found that television viewing by young people is associated with unhealthy eating and food choices that may track into early adulthood.

The research was undertaken by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The research used data from a nationwide survey of adolescents conducted every four years in the U.S. The survey included a nationally representative group of 12,642 students with an average age of 13.4 years.

The survey found that television viewing time was associated with lower odds of consuming fruit or vegetables daily and higher odds of consuming candy and sugar-sweetened soft drinks daily, skipping breakfast at least one day per week and eating at a fast food restaurant at least one day per week.

According to the study’s authors, the relationship of  television viewing with this combination of eating behaviors may contribute to the previously documented relationship of television viewing with cardio-metabolic risk factors.

“Future research should elucidate the independent contributions of television viewing and food advertising on dietary intake in this population,” the authors concluded. “If these relationships are causal, efforts to reduce television viewing or to modify the nutritional content of advertised foods may lead to substantial improvements in adolescents’ dietary intake.”