Researchers discovered that kids who watch over 90 minutes of television per day are a third more likely to eat sugary foods and 39% more likely to suffer from dental decay than children who don’t watch TV frequently.
More than half of children who watch at least 90 minutes of TV per day have signs of dental decay and rates of decay are twice as high among children who snack on sugary treats while in front of the box.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said that the study clearly underlines the negative relationship between watching TV and grazing on unhealthy foods and dental problems in children. Studies show that the vast majority of UK children consume too much sugar, and this is undoubtedly contributing to poor standards of oral health. Decay is the leading cause of child hospital admissions across the UK, despite the fact that almost all cases of decay could be prevented. In England alone, more than 59,000 tooth extractions were performed on children in 2018.
In light of the findings, Dr Carter is urging parents to moderate both the time children spend in front of the TV and the foods they consume while watching their favourite programmes.
As well as highlighting the link between TV viewing time and oral health problems, the study also raised concerns about the impact of advertising. Over 70% of children asked their parents to buy foods they see advertised on television and 69% admit to appeasing their children. Almost 80% of adults also said that they bought products featured on adverts, and their children are subsequently much more likely to develop decay.
Dr Carter is one of many high-profile health professionals calling for pre-watershed junk food advertising to be banned.