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Aug 21, 2013 09:32 AM EDT

Children Who Eat School Lunch and Watch More TV Become Obese, Study

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Girls who drink milk and boys who are involved in a team sport are less likely to be overweight or obese, according to a study conducted by the researchers at the University of Michigan. The findings by the University's Cardiovascular Center will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

The researchers, who surveyed nearly 1,714 sixth-grade students enrolled in Project Healthy Schools also found that kids who had lunch from canteens and spent more time watching T.V. and playing video games for two or more hours were more likely to suffer from overweight or obese problems.

Girls, who drank two or more servings of milk per day, had a lower risk of obesity. Boys part of sports teams also has a minimum risk of obesity..

"Additional work is needed to help us understand the beneficial impact of improving school lunches and decreasing screen time," said Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. "Presumably playing video games, or watching TV replaces physical activity."

Jackson is also a cardiologist and senior study author.

Milk consumption prevents obesity in girls more than boys because milk decreases soda intake and balances their sugar levels. Also for boys, milk consumption does not seem to affect their obesity levels. 

The study also found that 61 percent of obese boys and 63 percent of obese girls reported watching television for two or more hours a day; obese girls were more likely than any other group to use a computer and obese boys reported playing video games more frequently than normal weight boys.

"We did not find a significant association between time spent playing video games and obesity among boys, which has been observed in other studies," said study lead author Morgen Govindan, an investigator with the Michigan Cardiovascular Research and Reporting Program at the U-M. "Although we saw a similar trend, the association was not as strong perhaps due to our smaller sample size."

 "Exploring such gender-related differences in a larger group may help in refining the interventions to promote weight loss and prevent obesity among middle school children."

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