Television’s direct relation with obesity established


Need for Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Health to formulate laws and censures

tvThe link of TV viewing and obesity in children and adults, in countries around the world, can no longer be denied. For past 25 years, since TV viewing started becoming a habit, researches have been conducted in this regard. Nearly all the researches have drawn same or similar conclusions. Despite this, families are spending an increasingly large amount of time on the idiot box, with other time consumers like Laptop, Android Mobiles, Tablets, etc. performing the same effect on health and body.

A research conducted at Harvard first linked TV watching to obesity more than 25 years ago. Since then, extensive research has confirmed the link between TV viewing and obesity in children and adults, in countries around the world. Toeing the same line, a recent draft guideline published by Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended adults and children to consider having TV-free days or limiting viewing to no more than two hours a day to tackle obesity. It also suggested people to avoid drinks with added sugar to limit takeaways.

A good evidence has emerged that cutting back on TV time and other sedentary time can help with weight control – part of the reason why many organizations recommend that children and teens limit TV/media time to no more than two hours per day. Conversely speaking, TV viewing and other sedentary activities are one of the worst contributors to obesity risk.

Studies that follow children over long periods of time have consistently found that the more TV children watch, the more likely they are to gain excess weight. Children who have TV sets in their bedrooms are also more likely to gain excess weight than children who don’t. And there’s evidence that early TV habits may have long-lasting effects: Two studies that followed children from birth found that TV viewing in childhood predicts obesity risk well into adulthood and mid-life.

Several trials designed to reduce children’s TV use have found improvements in body mass index (BMI), body fat, and other obesity-related measures. Based on this evidence, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommends that communities roll out behavior-change programs aimed at curbing screen time, since there’s “sufficient evidence” that such programs do help reduce screen time and improve weight. Some of these successful TV-reduction trials have been delivered through the schools.

There’s convincing evidence in adults, too, that the more television people watch, the more likely they are to gain weight or become overweight or obese. And there’s emerging evidence that too much TV watching also increases the risk of weight-related chronic diseases. These studies have revealed that for every two hours spent watching TV, the risk of developing diabetes, developing heart disease, and early death increased by 20, 15, and 13 percent, respectively.

Researchers have hypothesized that TV watching could promote obesity in several ways: displacing time for physical activity; promoting poor diets; giving more opportunities for unhealthy snacking (during TV viewing); and even by interfering with sleep.

Many studies show that TV viewing is associated with greater calorie intake or poorer diet quality, and there’s increasing evidence that food and beverage marketing on television may be responsible for the TV–obesity link. The effects of TV viewing on physical activity are much smaller than on diet, so they don’t seem to play as strong a role. In US, in the wake of certain reports and public outcry, companies like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and 15 other major food and drink companies have been forced to pledge to self-regulate food advertising during U.S. television shows aimed at children under the age of 12, through the voluntary Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) that was launched in 2006. Had it been a moral concern rather than a pledge made under pressure, these companies would have restricted themselves not to advertise in similar programs in countries outside of the U.S. as well. But the fact that it is not happening reveals that these companies took the ‘pledge’ only to befool the public.

Even in the U.S., it has been found that these companies are cashing on the loopholes. The guidelines don’t cover, for example, general audience prime-time shows, such as American Idol, which are often viewed by young children, and don’t cover teens; while TV food and drink advertising in the U.S., to children ages 2–11 decreased from 2004 to 2008, advertising to adolescents (12–17) and adults (18–49) rose substantially. There’s no check to make sure that companies comply with their guidelines—and no sanctions if they don’t. In fact, a recent review of the sugary drink advertising market found that children’s and teens’ exposure to sugary soda ads doubled from 2008 to 2010, with Coca Cola (a CFBAI member) and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (not a member) leading the way.

With no such laws in India to prohibit such companies to advertise during all type of programs, including sports coverage which is hugely watched by the children, India is sitting on the verge of ‘obesity’ explosion unless the Government at the centre and particularly Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Health wakes up in time, to put in the much needed laws and censures.