THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- David Burley was excited about a new restaurant opening in his small Louisiana town, where vacant storefronts have become the norm as the recession lingers.
But Burley, an assistant professor of sociology at Southeastern Louisiana University, wasn't thrilled that the eatery would be serving heaping helpings of flat-screened TVs -- one in every booth -- along with its family fare.
The deluge of televisions in American restaurants in recent years makes a mockery of the quaint 1950s vignette of families eating dinner on folding tray tables in front of the Ed Sullivan show. Instead of uniting families, experts say, today's ubiquitous screens are threatening people's health, leading them to eat more of the wrong foods and eroding the socializing that makes mealtime special.
"It's a really hot topic," said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a researcher at the University of Minnesota's Project EAT. "People are really struggling with this."
Several studies over the past decade have linked prolonged TV watching with obesity, which affects one-third of adult Americans. Scientists analyzing the Nurses' Health Study in 2003 looked at 50,000 women aged 30 to 55, finding their odds of obesity rising 23 percent and their risk of type 2 diabetes rising 14 percent for every additional two hours of television time they logged.
In 2007, Neumark-Sztainer's study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior indicated that teens in families that watched TV while eating together had a lower-quality diet than children of families that turned off the tube while eating together. Teens watching television ate fewer vegetables, calcium-rich food and grains; they also consumed more soft drinks than their peers who ate meals without the TV on.
And a 2010 study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that school
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