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Your child obese? Blame it on that TV, computer

Health & Science
 Obese woman, A competitor prepares to go in front of judges at a casting call for the second season of the reality television programme "Dance Your Ass Off", during which overweight or obese contestants hope to lose weight by dancing, in New York December 18, 2009.

Removing that computer or television set from your child's bedroom might just save him/her from obesity, a new international study has shown.

The study covered about 6,000 children in 12 countries, 500 of them being from Nairobi.

"This is the largest study ever to determine the relationship between lifestyle behaviours and obesity in nine- to 11-year-old children," said one of the study's authors Vincent Onywera of Kenyatta University.

Apart from Nairobi, children from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, India, Portugal, South Africa, UK, and the US took part in the study.

The study, funded by Coca Cola and published in the online journal Plos One recently, showed obesity is becoming a major health problem among children in both poor and rich countries.

Children who were less active and who spent most of their time indoors after school, were found to have higher level of body fat. This was also the case with children who had access to a television set or a computer in their bedroom.

"In other words, children who were more sedentary had higher body fat, were less active, spent less time outside after school, and had a computer, and a TV in their bedroom," said Dr Onywera.

But the team said it was surprised to find that children who were more active ate more unhealthy food and did not have a television set in their bedroom. They said they would institute more studies to understand the phenomenon.

Girls were found to be more likely to be glued to the television longer than boys. This was  especially so in homes with more than one television set. But, generally the more television sets there were in a home the more hours children were likely to be hooked, affecting their health.

"Removing television sets and computers from children's bedrooms is one way of reducing screen time and freeing some hours for outdoor activities," said Onywera who is also a sports health specialist.

When the team looked at girls, those who were more sedentary had more fat, spent less time outside and had a computer in their bedroom. Girls who were less sedentary, ate more unhealthy food, and had higher household car ownership.

Sedentary behaviour, said Onywera, has been shown to be linked to a wide range of health risks including obesity and heart complications.

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