Research: Prerecorded television linked to less sugar consumption

Friday, March 1, 2013 | 10:26 p.m. CST; updated 4:51 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 2, 2013

COLUMBIA — According to research published by a University of Michigan professor, people who watch prerecorded television don't consume as much sugar or junk food than those who watch live television.

More than 60 people attended Kristen Harrison's presentation of the newest discoveries regarding media consumption and its influence on nutrition. The lecture, titled "Media and Preschoolers Perception of Healthy Eating" took place on Friday afternoon at MU's Switzler Hall. 

In an effort to understand rising childhood obesity, Harrison, along with a team of about 20 researchers, charted the factors that influence nutrition and weight. Those influences were summarized as the Six C’s — cell, child, clan, community, country and culture.

Harrison said the goal of this model was to help families and children lead healthier lifestyles while taking into account preferences and circumstances. Research supports focusing on ensuring proper nutrition rather than ascribing to strict eating habits. It is a practical approach because it can be modified as a child grows. 

Research revealed TV viewing alone was more strongly correlated with unhealthy eating habits than race, ethnicity, parent body mass index, household income, gender and parent education combined. Parents who spend less time watching TV typically serve their children more nutrient-dense foods.

The research also included a comparison of the difference between the eating habits of people who watch TV with commercials and those who prerecord shows. The results revealed that people who watch prerecorded TV consume less sugar than their commercial viewing counterparts.

"As a parent who does more DVR viewing, this makes me feel a little better," audience member Lissa Behm-Morawitz said. “So I’m probably exposing myself to fewer commercials and maybe that’s associated with making healthier choices for my child as well.”

Harrison said she believes that parent body mass index, which is a body fat indicator, is the best predictor of a child's BMI. Genetics, along with what parents feed their children, play a big role in the development of a child's dietary habits.

Harrison said TV viewing at the preschool age is not an accurate predictor of the child’s BMI, but it is a good predictor of eating habits. 

“I think it’s really interesting to think about these different nuances about the way we are using media as parents effect how our kids are eating,” Behm-Morawitz said.

However, Harrison was cautious about her message on childhood obesity.

“I’m very concerned with this work and making sure it doesn’t get represented as some kind of call to action to make kids be too skinny,” Harrison said.

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani

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Derrick Fogle March 2, 2013 | 11:17 a.m.

Related material: Sugar availability linked to diabetes worldwide:

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