- by Dr Gowher Yusuf
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- Jul 14 2017
Sedentary Behaviors Linked to Poor Food Choices
(Source: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. published online September 3, 2012)
Adolescents who spend extensive time on sedentary activities such as watching television or playing computer games are more likely to choose unhealthy sweetened beverages and snacks than those who spend less time on such screen-based activities, according to a study of European youth September 3 in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
Researchers evaluated data on 2202 adolescents between the ages of 12.5 and 17.5 years (45.5% boys) from the European Union-funded Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-sectional Study. The results showed that compared with those who spent less than 2 hours per day on similar sedentary activities; boys were more likely to consume sweetened beverages on weekends if they reported more than 4 hours per day of watching television. Girls showed similar patterns in being more likely to drink sweetened beverages and less likely to consume fruit if they spent 4 or more hours per day on the sedentary activities, according to the study.
"The study findings suggest that adolescents who spent more time in sedentary activities, mainly watching TV, playing computer games, and using the Internet for leisure time, had a higher consumption of sweetened beverages and savory snacks and a lower consumption of fruits," the authors write.
The blame may lie at the feet of the parents, who are responsible for the home environment and the foods their children consume, the authors suggest. "Home environment and parental influence have an important effect on the development of health-related behaviors," they write. "It is likely that individuals whose parents allow them to spend time in sedentary activities might also be those allowed to snack and drink sweetened beverages."
Simply having unhealthy snacks available in the home plays an important role in the food choices, particularly as consumption of the unhealthy foods is more frequent during after-school hours, when adolescents are more likely to be unsupervised, the authors note.
The association of unhealthy food and beverage choices with sedentary activity raises concerns of the known risks for obesity and poor nutrition, they add. "Efforts to promote healthy foods and to replace adolescents' sedentary time with alternative activities appear to offer a way forward in the short term," they write. "In addition, the role of the parents in creating a healthy eating environment should be considered in public strategies."
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