Burns My Butt: TV

You know what really gripes me? It probably gripes Earl Pitts, American, too. It's all the studies that try to show how watching TV causes children to get fat.

The latest waste of money and effort is a report in this month's Archives of Pediatrics called "Television watching, energy intake and obesity in US children." These geniuses found that increased television watching is associated with a higher prevalence of obesity among girls, but not among boys. They also found that obesity was more closely related to TV watching than to physical activity and as the hours of watching went up, the prevalence of obesity went up until they watched more than 4 hours of TV, then the prevalence of obesity went down for the girls. So what does all of this mean? Nothing. Most studies of this question - and there are skads - show no relation between television watching and obesity in children and adolescents.

These studies purport to demonstrate the obvious. If you're sitting around watching TV then you're watching food commercials and eating and not getting exercise. The problem with this thinking is that more direct studies of these questions do not demonstrate any connection between exercise and obesity and diet and obesity. Obese people do NOT eat more than thin people and do NOT get less exercise. So if you can't demonstrate a direct connection, why try to demonstrate an indirect connection by the same reasoning?

Don't get me wrong. Watching television is probably pernicious. Maybe it causes teenage pregnancy, and violence and stupidity. I don't know. I tell my kids to check out real reality. Go outside. Play ball. Read a book.

But watching TV doesn't cause obesity. We really need to stop doing studies like these. They are expensive and we've already done enough of them. There are much more important things to study about obesity.