Sunday, 9 August 2015

Studious Sunday: Video Games and Junk Food- Oh My!

Welcome to another edition of Studious Sundays where we break down an academic study every week to learn more about diet, farming, the environment and other topics surrounding the food we eat. We know it's hard, if not impossible, to keep up with studies and news about food while leading a busy lifestyle, so we are making it a little bit easier to stay informed and make simple, meaningful changes in your life. This week, we're looking at a study that investigates the relationship between children's video games and computer time with quality of diet. 

The Study: Exploring the Relationship between Diet and TV, Computer and Video Game Use in a Group of Canadian Children, Tomlin et. al, 2014

The Breakdown: We all know that spending more time being sedentary watching television, using the computer, or playing video games isn't necessarily good for our health. This 2014 Canadian study investigates how the amount of sedentary time, particularly time spent playing video games and using the computer, impacts children's diets.

The majority of research studying the relationship between sedentary activity and diet has been limited to television viewing, where children's hands are free to snack. These studies demonstrated that increased time watching television also increased the probability for a poor diet. Video games and computer time, however, leave less opportunity for snacking and feature fewer food-related advertisements, so the researchers wanted to determine whether increased time spent playing video games and using the computer was related to a poorer diet with more "junk" food. 

The researchers studied the relationship between screen time (both the type of the screen time and the amount of it) and diet indicators, including consumption of calories, fat, vegetables, fruit, and sugar sweetened beverages. The research participants were 1494 school-aged children from British Columbia. The study included a 24-hour dietary recall where the children were asked to report everything they ate the day before, as well as a activity recall of the amount of time spent doing various activities including playing video games and using the computer. 

A statistical analysis followed (multiple linear regression analysis for the diet variables and multiple regression analysis for the activity), where the researchers determined the relationship between sedentary time and dietary variables and the type of sedentary time and dietary variables. 

The Results: Increased television time was correlated with a higher consumption of calories, fat, sugar, and sugar-sweetened beverages, and a lower consumption of vegetables, and fibre. In fact, every additional hour of television could predict an increased intake of 19 mL of sugar sweetened beverages and 4.4 grams of sugar! These results were consistent with previous research demonstrating the relationship between television viewing and poorer diet, but what about those other sedentary activities that don't leave little hands free for munching?
Increased computer time was associated with higher calorie consumption, but the relationship between computer time and other dietary indicators including sugar, fibre, fat and vegetable consumption was insignificant. 

Video game time, however, was even more strongly associated with increased consumption of calories, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages than television; one additional hour spent playing video games could predict an increased intake of 38 mL of sugar-sweetened beverages and 6.8 grams of sugar! Video game time was also found to be related to an increased consumption of fat and carbohydrates, as well as a reduced intake of fibre. 

When activities were pooled into total sedentary time (including sedentary activities other than television, computer and video games) and total screen time, total screen time and total sedentary time predict intake of calories, fat, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, and total screen time also predicts the intake of fibre.

How You Can Make a Change: This study demonstrates that when children are more sedentary, especially when they're watching television and playing video games, they are more likely to eat unhealthy food. We learn from this research that there are two ways to help improve children's health: one, to limit time spent playing video games, watching television and being sedentary, and two, to limit snacks consumed during sedentary activities to fruits and vegetables!

Ways to Increase Activity and Reduce Junk Food Intake at SWEFM: Our market knows it can be tough to get kids outside and eating healthy snacks in the summer! That's why we make SWEFM a place for families to get families playing and eating healthy week after week. Here are our top five ways to get kids moving and eating fruits and vegetables at market:

5. Nutrition Tours: We have nutrition students from the University of Alberta on site to help you pick out the best snacks for your family ad answer any nutrition-related questions.
4. Bouncy Castle: There's nothing sedentary about climbing up a giant slide and tumbling down or jumping in a bouncy castle! Our bouncy castles are set up every good-weather day.
3. Hopscotch: We draw an elaborate hopscotch for kids to play on every week at SWEFM, which is a great (free) way to have fun and get moving at market!
2. Sprouts Program for Kids: Having your child choose their own fruit or vegetable snack for their sedentary activities is a great way to empower them to make the right snacking choices.
1. Zumba: There's nothing better than Zumba to get children active and excited to move! No Excuses provides a free Zumba class at market every nice-weather week.

Thank you for joining us for Studious Sunday! If you have any comments or stories about sedentary activity and diet, please tweet us @SWEFM_YEG or post on our Facebook page at You can find this week's study online here.

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