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Jan 07, 2015 03:51 PM EST

TV Use May Be Linked to Unhealthy Eating

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Spending a lot of time in front of the television may lead to increased snacking, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Houston found that people who watch excessive amounts of TV tend to eat more unhealthy foods and might not understand the foundations of a healthy diet.

"A number of previous studies found a relationship between TV use in terms of the number of hours watched per day and unhealthy food consumption," researcher Temple Northup said in a statement. "In essence, the number of hours of TV you watch per day, the more unhealthy foods you eat. A common explanation for this is that TV watching is sedentary and encourages snacking."

A "fatalistic view toward eating well" and "nutritional knowledge" are two of the measurements Northup included in a cross-sectional survey of 591 participants. He also included "television and news media usage" and "nutritional intake." Northup says the research model is based on similar measures that look at cancer prevention.

His findings suggest that those with a more fatalistic view toward eating well tend to eat more snack foods. If these individuals think nutrition is too difficult to understand, they will probably give up trying to eat well.

"I found people who watch more TV had both a poorer understanding of proper nutrition and a more fatalistic view toward eating well compared to those who watched less TV. In turn, those two items predicted snacking behaviors," Northup said. "It is important to understand how people develop knowledge about nutrition, including examining nutritional messages found within the media."

Northup suggests that because consumers are inundated with advertising for unhealthy food and messages about the latest trends in what you should (or shouldn't) eat, they develop these poor attitudes toward and knowledge about eating well.

The findings are detailed in the International Journal of Communication and Health.

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