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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Television viewing, computer use, obesity, and adiposity in US preschool children

Jason A Mendoza1*, Fred J Zimmerman23 and Dimitri A Christakis24

Author Affiliations

1 USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center and Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics; and the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

2 Child Health Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2007, 4:44  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-4-44

Published: 25 September 2007

Abstract

Background

There is limited evidence in preschool children linking media use, such as television/video viewing and computer use, to obesity and adiposity. We tested three hypotheses in preschool children: 1) that watching > 2 hours of TV/videos daily is associated with obesity and adiposity, 2) that computer use is associated with obesity and adiposity, and 3) that > 2 hours of media use daily is associated with obesity and adiposity.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional study using nationally representative data on children, aged 2–5 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2002. Our main outcome measures were 1) weight status: normal versus overweight or at risk for overweight, and 2) adiposity: the sum of subscapular and triceps skinfolds (mm). Our main exposures were TV/video viewing (≤ 2 or > 2 hours/day), computer use (users versus non-users), and media use (≤ 2 or > 2 hours/day). We used multivariate Poisson and linear regression analyses, adjusting for demographic covariates, to test the independent association between TV/video viewing, computer use, or overall media use and a child's weight status or adiposity.

Results

Watching > 2 hours/day of TV/videos was associated with being overweight or at risk for overweight (Prevalence ratio = 1.34, 95% CI [1.07, 1.66]; n =1340) and with higher skinfold thicknesses (β = 1.08, 95% CI [0.19, 1.96]; n = 1337). Computer use > 0 hours/day was associated with higher skinfold thicknesses (β = 0.56, 95% CI [0.04, 1.07]; n = 1339). Media use had borderline significance with higher skinfold thicknesses (β = 0.85, 95% CI [-0.04, 1.75], P=0.06; n = 1334)

Conclusion

Watching > 2 hours/day of TV/videos in US preschool-age children was associated with a higher risk of being overweight or at risk for overweight and higher adiposity–findings in support of national guidelines to limit preschool children's media use. Computer use was also related to higher adiposity in preschool children, but not weight status. Intervention studies to limit preschool children's media use are warranted.