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Independent and joint associations of TV viewing time and snack food consumption with the metabolic syndrome and its components; a cross-sectional study in Australian adults

Alicia A Thorp14*, Sarah A McNaughton3, Neville Owen1256 and David W Dunstan12347

Author Affiliations

1 Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Level 4 The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia

2 The University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Cancer Prevention Research Centre, Brisbane, Level 3, Public Health Building, Herston Road, Herston, Queensland 4006, Australia

3 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

4 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Level 6 The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia

5 Department of Medicine, Monash University, Bld 15, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia

6 School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie St, Parkville 3010, Victoria 3010, Australia

7 School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth 6009, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:96  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-96

Published: 9 August 2013



Television (TV) viewing time is positively associated with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in adults. However, the mechanisms through which TV viewing time is associated with MetS risk remain unclear. There is evidence that the consumption of energy-dense, nutrient poor snack foods increases during TV viewing time among adults, suggesting that these behaviors may jointly contribute towards MetS risk. While the association between TV viewing time and the MetS has previously been shown to be independent of adult’s overall dietary intake, the specific influence of snack food consumption on the relationship is yet to be investigated. The purpose of this study was to examine the independent and joint associations of daily TV viewing time and snack food consumption with the MetS and its components in a sample of Australian adults.


Population-based, cross-sectional study of 3,110 women and 2,572 men (>35 years) without diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Participants were recruited between May 1999 and Dec 2000 in the six states and the Northern Territory of Australia. Participants were categorised according to self-reported TV viewing time (low: 0-2 hr/d; high: >2 hr/d) and/or consumption of snack foods (low: 0-3 serves/d; high: >3 serves/d). Multivariate odds ratios [95% CI] for the MetS and its components were estimated using gender-specific, forced entry logistic regression.


OR [95% CI] for the MetS was 3.59 [2.25, 5.74] (p≤0.001) in women and 1.45 [1.02, 3.45] (p = 0.04) in men who jointly reported high TV viewing time and high snack food consumption. Obesity, insulin resistance and hypertension (women only) were also jointly associated with high TV viewing time and high snack food consumption. Further adjustment for diet quality and central adiposity maintained the associations in women. High snack food consumption was also shown to be independently associated with MetS risk [OR: 1.94 (95% CI: 1.45, 2.60), p < 0.001] and hypertension [OR: 1.43 (95% CI: 1.01, 2.02), p = 0.05] in women only. For both men and women, high TV viewing time was independently associated with the MetS and its individual components (except hypertension).


TV viewing time and snack food consumption are independently and jointly associated with the MetS and its components, particularly in women. In addition to physical activity, population strategies targeting MetS prevention should address high TV time and excessive snack food intake.

Snacking; Sedentary behaviour; Screen-time; Metabolic risk