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Snacking in front of a screen puts teen health at risk

A boy sits in front of a computer eating pizza.

April 26, 2019—Teens who spend a lot of time snacking in front of a TV or computer may be putting their health at risk, according to a new study.

Researchers found a connection between this behavior and metabolic syndrome—a cluster of risk factors that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Having metabolic syndrome increases a person's risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In the study, teens who spent six hours a day or more in front of screens and also reported snacking during screen time had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Screen time and health

The study looked at data from almost 34,000 teens ages 12 to 17. Researchers examined the teens’ waist measurements, blood pressure and cholesterol. They found that 2.5 percent of the teens had metabolic syndrome.

The increased risk for metabolic syndrome was only for teens who spent six or more hours a day in front of screens and who usually snacked during screen time. Those who didn’t eat in front of the TV or computer didn't have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome. This suggests that simply separating screen time and snack time can be helpful.

The study was presented in March at ENDO 2019, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Learn more about kids and screen time by taking this quiz.

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