Childhood Obesity Tied to Screen Time, School Lunches

Exercise may have an effect in preventing obesity in sixth-grade children

FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Watching television, playing computer games, and eating school lunches are all independently associated with childhood obesity; whereas, exercise has a preventive effect, according to a study published in the December issue of the American Heart Journal.

Taylor F. Eagle, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues assessed which health habits contributed to childhood obesity in 1,003 sixth-grade participants in a school-based intervention study from 2004 to 2009. Health behaviors and physiological markers were compared in obese and nonobese children and independent predictors were identified.

The investigators found that obese students had elevated cardiovascular risk markers: higher levels of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and recovery heart rates after a three-minute step test. Obese children consumed more regular soda and school lunches, watched two or more hours of television per day, and were less physically active. Independent predictors of obesity were watching television, or playing computer games (odds ratio [OR], 1.19), and eating school lunches (OR, 1.29). Moderate exercise was identified as protective (OR, 0.89).

"It is useful to appreciate that students in both groups (obese and nonobese) reported unhealthy behaviors. Thus, it is clear that opportunities to improve health abound for the majority of our students, not just the 15 percent who are already obese," the authors write.

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