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Adult Fast-Food Diets Tied to Too Much TV as Teen
Date:1/30/2009

high-sugar foods, low-nutrient-dense foods."

Frederick J. Zimmerman, an assistant professor at the Child Health Institute of the University of Washington, said the study raises important issues.

"This research tugs not so gently at the wool in front of all of our eyes -- revealing that heavy TV viewing, especially of food advertising -- makes a difference to our children's diets," he said.

Anyone familiar with the research on television viewing, advertising, and diet will not be surprised by these results, Zimmerman added. "This research suggests that heavy TV-viewing adolescents consume about 200 more calories per day than those who watch a moderate amount of TV. That is a lot of calories by anyone's count," he said.

Another expert agreed that, in the end, parents are the key to change.

"This study is a clear wake-up call that entertainment media matter when it comes to health," said Kimberly M. Thompson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Given the current obesity and overweight crisis in America, this study provides clear evidence that kids and parents should make a point of reducing sedentary time spent in front of a TV screen," she said.

It's not clear from the study if TV ads for junk food, "couch potato'" lifestyles, or both, are leading to bad diets, Thompson said. But regardless of the cause, parents need to take action.

"For those looking to nudge their families in the right direction, implement a rule in your home of no eating while the TV is on. Or if that's too tough, then insist that only fruits and vegetables and water get consumed while viewing TV," she said. "You could also require that for every hour of TV viewed, each member of the family needs to engage in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise."

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