Washington, Mar 4 : Researchers at the University of Buffalo suggest that reducing kids' TV and computer time by half can cut obesity risk in children.
The researchers conducted randomised trials on 70 boys and girls between 4 to 7 years whose Body Mass Index (BMI), the ratio of weight to height was 75 and above.
The children were divided into two groups- control group and an intervention group.
Each family was given a device called TV Allowance for all video outlets in the home. All participants regularly watched television or played computer video games for at least 14 hours per week, as determined during a 3-week pre-study period. The device was programmed to cut the allotment by 10 percent monthly.
Each family member had a private individual code to activate the electronic devices.
With the help of the device that automatically restricted video-viewing time, parents reduced their children's video time by an average of 17.5 hours a week and lowered their body-mass index (BMI) significantly by the end of the 2-year study.
"Our controlled experiment provided a test of whether reducing access to television and computer time led to a reduction in BMI," said Leonard Epstein, first author and UB Distinguished Professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Health Behaviour and Social and Preventive Medicine.
The findings revealed that the intervention group showed a steady decline in BMI over the two years, while the control group showed an increase followed by a steady decline.
"Results showed that watching television and playing computer games can lead to obesity by reducing the amount of time that children are physically active, or by increasing the amount of food they consume as they as engaged in these sedentary behaviours," Epstein said.
"Although the changes overall were modest, a small effect of using this simple and inexpensive intervention [the device costs approximately 0], magnified across the population, may produce important reductions in obesity and obesity-related health problems," he added.
The study appears in the current issue (March 2008) of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.