Don’t blame Bingo, but telly boosts the belly

4 minute read

I hate it when my parents are right.

When I was in primary school I belted home after 3pm, like the tubby track star I was, to make sure I was installed in front of the telly in time for a quality line-up that would take me through to the 6pm news.

It ages me, I know, but in terms of pop culture legends, you can’t do much better than Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Batman and Get Smart.

Saturday mornings were spent in the company of Jacki MacDonald and her dopey Great Dane, with a steady diet of Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Hong Kong Phooey, and a special commendation to Drooper, Fleegle, Snorky and Bingo. And if you need to ask who that quartet of geniuses is then, frankly, you are dead to me.

It took persistence on my part, I’ll tell you, as I suffered a constant stream of maternal and grandmotherly tirades about square eyes, dead brain, reduced vocabulary and persistently spreading arse.

Not that they ever stopped lighting up their cigarettes long enough to lean in and turn the idiot box off, mind you. But I digress.

Now it seems, curses, they were right. I HATE that.

New Zealand researchers have provided further evidence, if we needed it, that watching too much television as a child can lead to poor health in adulthood.

The research, published this week in Pediatrics, found that children who watched more television were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome – characterised by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels and the increased stroke and cardiac risks that go with them – as an adult.

Using data from 879 participants of the Dunedin study, researchers found those who watched more television between the ages of five and 15 were more likely to have these conditions at age 45.

On average, they watched just over two hours per weekday.

Tch. Amateurs.

Boys watched slightly more television than girls and metabolic syndrome was more common in men than women (34% and 20% respectively). The link between childhood television viewing time and adult metabolic syndrome was seen in both sexes, however, and may even be stronger in women.

Of course, it’s not the actual watching of television that does the harm. There’s no magic evil beam coming out of that box, warping the metabolism of small children. It’s the seven bowls of cereal, two packs of Mint Slices and endless glasses of chocolate Nestle Quik that does it.

“Television viewing has low energy expenditure and could displace physical activity and reduce sleep quality,” said lead investigator Professor Bob Hancox of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago.

“Screentime may also promote higher energy intake, with children consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat dietary products with fewer fruit and vegetables. These habits may persist into adulthood.”

There you go.

The Kiwi researchers said their results were important because screen times have increased in recent years with new technologies.

“Children today have far more access to screen-based entertainment and spend much more time being sedentary. It is likely that this will have even more detrimental effects for adult health,” said Professor Hancox.

“These findings lend support to the World Health Organisation recommendation that children and young teenagers should limit their recreational screen time.”

Don’t be blaming Scooby, Fleegle and Huckleberry Hound, though. Blame the advertisers targeting kids with visions of sugary treats, the governments instituting policies that make junk food cheaper than fresh vegetables, and the parents using the TV like a cheap babysitter so they can sleep in on a Saturday morning. Looking at you, Dad.

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