Childhood Obesity


I recently attended a lecture about childhood obesity in relation to media influences.  The researcher, Kristen Harrison of The University of Michigan, wanted to see if there was a pattern between the amount of media watched and the likelihood of childhood obesity.   She claimed that the rate of childhood obesity has been on an incline since the 1960 but is leveling off now.  However, the rate is still higher than it should be.


In her study, she used 429 parents and 369 2-4-year-olds.  For the experiment, she controlled the parents' BMI, education and income and the child's race, ethnicity and gender.  She was looking to measure media exposure, dietary habits, height, weight, and BMI of the children.  She found the TV watching was the only predictor of kids eating junk food.  On the other hand, children who read more books ate healthier food.


These results show some sort of correlation between media exposure and food being consumed.  However, this study is not definitive enough to prove that watching TV causes obesity.  Additionally, it seems to me that 2-4 years old is a young age to determine if someone is obese.


Harrison continued her study by using another 106 parents and 89 kids.  This time, however, she measured the parents' media usage in addition to the children's.  She also had the children create a "healthy" meal using life like food props.  By using a nonverbal activity, Harrison could tell that regardless of vocabulary level, children knew which foods were healthy and which were not; therefore, it was a pretty well thought out study design.  From the research done on the parents, Harrison found that lighter TV viewing parents had a slightly healthier meal than heavier viewing parents.  The difference in calories of the two meals was 170.


Overall, this study has not proven a direct link between media usage and dietary habits but it shows that there may be some correlation.  Harrison would like to continue her study by researching a larger group of people and look more into the genetics of the families.


I have a few questions about this study.  What exactly is it about media that drives obesity?  After researching this question, talks about a few reasons why the media might be a reason for obesity.  First, the children are watching TV therefore, not being active.  Second, the advertisements they are seeing are influencing them to want to buy unhealthy foods.  And last, when children are watching TV, they are exposed to a food commercial about every five minutes.


There is still much research that needs to be done surrounding this topic.  I am still curious as to why book readers are more likely to eat healthier.  I wonder if Harrison's study is continued it would bring more definitive results.




It sometime seems like being in a vegetative state makes your brain think that you need to eat. My roommate and I have just came back from eating lunch, and then decide to watch some TV until it's time to take a nap. While we watch TV, we start eating some Lay's potato chips and before we know it we have overeaten and are taking a nap. There are two things stated here. First being that the brain thinks that it needs some stimulation, which would be accomplished through the action of eating more. The latter being that the body obtains more energy than it actually uses, and inactivity turns that energy into fat. I failed to find any research done for linking brain's under stimulation of watching TV, but it would be an interesting find. The energy theory is most like.

This is obviously a great study that could have a huge impact on ways parents handle their children. I am a little thrown off by one certain aspect of this study. As much as I keep re-reading this, I do not understand why 2-4 year olds were examined and not say 4-8 year olds. At the age 2-4 I personally do not even remember knowing how to turn a tv on. Maybe back then it was less common and being the youngest child I have not been around little kids for awhile. It just seems odd to me that the study focused on such younger kids. I feel studying kids a little older would make for stronger results.

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