A dramatic increase in childhood overweight over the past 30 years is evident even among the youngest infants and children. Multiple studies have shown a correlation between television (TV) viewing and childhood overweight but study subjects have not included preschool-age children. The authors of this article conducted a cross-sectional study of 240 parents of children ages two to 5.9 years enrolled in out-of-home childcare to examine the extent to which TV viewing is associated with consumption of fast food by preschool-age children. After adjusting for parents' and children's sociodemographic characteristics, the study showed that the odds of eating fast food one or more times a week were elevated for each one-hour increase in TV/video viewing per day. The authors speculate that one way in which TV/video viewing might influence dietary patterns in preschool children is through fast food advertising on TV, which is prevalent during children's programming. Another way in which TV may influence eating patterns is through food messages embedded within program content, which are frequently references to foods of low nutritional value.
The findings suggest that reducing the number of hours of TV and video viewing may be one way to improve dietary patterns among young children.