More Health? Less Television!

Prolonged Television Viewing Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Premature Death. Boston, MA – Watching television is the most common daily activity apart from work and sleep in many parts of the world, but it is time for people to change their viewing habits. According to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers, prolonged TV viewing was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. The study appears in the June 15, 2011, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.“The message is simple. Cutting back on TV watching can significantly reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality,” said senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH. “We should not only promote increasing physical activity levels but also reduce sedentary

behaviors, especially prolonged TV watching,” said Hu.Many people around the world divide their days largely between working, sleeping, and watching television, according to the researchers. Europeans spend an average of 40 percent of their daily free time in front of the television set; Australians, 50 percent. This corresponds to three to four hours of daily viewing — still less than a reported average of five hours in the U.S. The negative health effects of TV viewing have been documented in prior studies, including associations with reduced physical activity levels and unhealthy diets.Hu and first author Anders Grøntved, a doctoral student and visiting researcher in the HSPH Department of Nutrition, conducted a meta-analysis, a systematic assessment of all published studies from 1970 to 2011 that linked TV viewing with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Eight large prospective cohort studies from the United States, Europe, and Australia met the researchers’ criteria and were included in the meta-analysis.The results showed that more than two hours of TV viewing per day increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and more than three hours of daily viewing increased risk of premature death. For each additional two hours of TV viewing per day, the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality

increased by 20, 15, and 13 percent respectively. Based on disease incidence in the United States, Hu and Grøntved estimated that among 100,000 individuals per year, each 2-hour increment in TV viewing per day was associated with 176 new cases of type 2 diabetes, 38 new cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, and 104 new cases of all-cause mortality.Hu and Grøntved found that the effect of prolonged television viewing on type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs in adults, was to some extent explained by the unfavorable influence of TV viewing on obesity, which is related to unhealthy eating habits and low activity levels, major risk factors for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Limitations to the meta-analysis included the relatively small number of studies and that the assessment of TV viewing was self-reported by participants. In addition, the majority of the studies did not assess the role of diet and physical activity in explaining the adverse effects of TV watching on chronic disease risk. “Sedentary lifestyle, especially prolonged TV watching, is clearly an important and modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Grøntved. “Future research should also look into the effects of extensive use of new media devices on energy balance and chronic disease risk.”“Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis,” Anders

Grøntved, Frank B. Hu, Journal of the American Medical Association, June 15, 2011.  Prof. Frank Hu. Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology. Department of Nutrition. Department of Epidemiology. Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Channing Lab, BWH.Director, Boston Obesity Nutrition Research Center Epidemiology and Genetics Core. Co-Director, Program in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention, HSPH. Research; Dr. Hu’s major research interests include: Epidemiology and prevention of type 2 diabetes and metabolic diseases through diet and lifestyle. Gene-environment interactions in relation to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications. Methodological development (especially dietary pattern analyses) in nutritional epidemiology. Obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease in Chinese populations. Dr. Hu’s research has focused on diet and lifestyle determinants of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He is the Principal Investigator of the diabetes component of the Nurses’ Health Study, and leads two NIH-funded projects to study biochemical and genetic risk factors for cardiovascular complications among patients with diabetes in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. Dr. Hu’s research has demonstrated that the vast majority of type 2 diabetes is preventable through diet and lifestyle modifications. His group has conducted detailed analyses of many dietary and lifestyle factors and risk

of diabetes, including sugar-sweetened beverages, caffeine, iron, magnesium, and dietary patterns. These findings have contributed to current public health recommendations and policies for prevention of chronic disease. His group has also examined the link between pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease and the relationship between inflammatory markers, iron overload, and risk of type 2 diabetes.His current research has expanded to investigate complex interactions among nutrition, biomarkers, and genetic factors in the development of diabetes and cardiovascular complications. Dr. Hu is also collaborating with researchers from China to study obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease in Chinese populations. – Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.  For more information: Todd Datz –  News from: Harvard School of Public Health

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