If you’re laid up with an injury, you might want to swap out your television remote for an Xbox controller—at least according to a research study to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Scientific Session. The study suggests that middle school kids who watch more than two hours of television per day are more likely to chow down on junk food and be at risk for heart disease than their video game-playing peers.
“While too much of both types of screen time encourages sedentary behavior, our study suggests high TV time in particular is associated with poorer food choices and increased cardiovascular risk,” said the study’s senior author, Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., in a press release.
The study included over 1,000 sixth graders from 24 middle schools in southeast Michigan. The researchers asked the students questions about their dietary habits and overall health. After finishing the questionnaire, students also had their blood pressure, cholesterol, height, weight and post-workout heart rate measured.
The students were divided into three groups: those with low screen time (under an hour-and-a-half per day), high TV time (two to six hours per day) and high computer or video game time (two to six hours per day).
The results? The more time students spent in front of any type of screen, the more likely they were to snack on unhealthy foods. In fact, the high TV and video game groups averaged 3.5 snacks per day—one full serving more than the low screen time group. The TV watching group, however, was the most likely to chomp down on high fat foods like French fries and chips.
Jackson believes that the difference is caused by commercials promoting sugary, fatty and salty foods. TV watchers also had their hands free, which could have led to more mindless eating.
“Snacks are important, and choosing a piece of fruit rather than a bag of chips can make a really big difference for one’s health,” Jackson said in the same press release.
If you have to chow down in front of the tube (or computer), ditch the chips and fries and opt for a snack that packs a punch.