London: Parents, take note! Placing TV sets in your children's room may put them at significantly higher risk of being overweight in later life, a new study warns.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK found that girls who had a TV in their bedroom at age of seven were at an about 30 per cent higher risk of being overweight at age 11 compared to children who did not have a TV in their bedroom, and for boys the risk was increased by about 20 per cent.
"We found that having a TV in the child's bedroom was an independent risk factor for being overweight and increased body fatness," said Anja Heilmann form UCL.
Researchers studied about 12,556 children. They took a range of other obesity-linked factors into consideration, such as household income, mothers' education, breastfeeding duration, physical activity and irregular bedtimes.
Mothers' body-mass index (BMI) was also taken into account to represent the overall food environment in the household as well as potential genetic influences.
Children's BMI at age three was included to minimise the possibility of reverse causation - the possibility that being overweight in the first place leads to spending more time in front of a screen.
The number of hours spent watching TV or DVDs was linked to increased body fatness among girls only, indicating a dose-response relationship where the more TV the girls watched, the more likely they were to be overweight, researchers said.
"The causes of overweight and obesity are complex and multiple. Screen time is part of the bigger picture and further research is needed among older children and adolescents, as the use of screen-based media including computers, mobile phones and tablets increases with age," Heilmann said.