10/05/2012 08:20 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Children's TV Time Linked To Unhealthy Snack Food Eating

Snacking in front of the telly causes kids to forgo fruit and veg PA

A survey has concluded that children and teens who watch a lot of television are less likely to eat their quota of fruit and veg a day - because they are too busy snacking on sweets and fizzy drinks.

The US study looked at around 13,000 school kids and their TV watching and eating habits, but couldn't prove which came first - whether watching TV MADE them eat unhealthily, or whether their poor eating habits led them to veg out in front of the box.

The researchers did agree though that when children have limited access to television, they do eat less.

Leah Lipsky from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development worked on the study with her colleague Ronald Iannotti.

She told Reuters: "It certainly is consistent with the idea that TV is maybe adversely affecting dietary intake and food choices."

Previous research has found that youngsters who spend a lot of time in front of the TV are more likely to be overweight or obese. One theory for this is the adverts for fast food steer them towards unhealthy snack choices.

The latest study examined a nationally-representative group of 12,642 private and public school children, who watched an average of two and a half hours of TV each day.

The researchers found that for every extra hour of daily TV watching reported by children from roughly age 10 to 16, they were five percent less likely to eat vegetables every day and eight percent less likely to get daily fruit.

Each extra average hour of TV also meant children were 18 per cent more likely to say they ate sweets each day, 24 per cent more likely to drink fizzy drinks at least daily and 14 per cent more likely to go to fast food restaurants once a week or more. The study took into account gender, race, age, and family affluence when drawing their conclusions.

Ronald Iannotti told Reuters: "The effect of television is extending beyond just when they're snacking and watching television." He added: "That means it's important both for parents to limit TV time - and thus exposure to food-related commercials - and to make sure healthy snacks are available when children are watching TV or otherwise engaged in 'screen time' in front of a computer."

Not really that surprising is it?
Do you monitor what your kids eat in front of the telly to prevent mindless snacking?