MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who spend lots of time in front of the TV have poorer diets overall, a new study of U.S. middle school students finds.
The research doesn't prove that TV watching has anything to do with what kids eat, and other factors -- such as parenting style -- could be more important than time spent with "American Idol" or "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Still, "the more TV you watch, the less likely you were to eat fruits and vegetables every day, and the more likely you were to eat things like candy and soda, eat at a fast food restaurant and even skip breakfast," said study author Leah Lipsky, a staff scientist with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Previous research has linked more TV watching to obesity in kids, she said, perhaps because the children are less active and snack more.
But study co-author Ronald Iannotti, also a staff scientist at the institute, said the issue is complicated. In some cases, for example, boys who are more active tend to watch more TV.
"There's some evidence that TV may be its [own] unique risk factor. It could be because your metabolic rate is so low that it's just worse than doing anything else," Iannotti said.
Seeking to better understand how TV watching affects diet, the researchers examined data from a 2009-2010 survey of more than 12,600 U.S. youngsters in grades 5-10, average age 13. The findings appear in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study found that those who watched the most TV were slightly more likely to eat candy and fast food and skip breakfast, even when researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as computer use and physical activity.
Also, eating habits appeared to deteriorate according to age, gender and race. Unhealthy eating habits were
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