New Diabetes Warning – Watching Too Much TV Raises Risk

a TV remote controlToday there was a new warning to couch potatoes – watching too much television raises the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. This latest research is a reminder that really we should add “watch less television” to our weight loss rules!

In the latest study which was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association it was found that watching television for 2 hours a day increased the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 20% and heart disease by 15%.

Watching television for long periods is the most common cause of inactivity in the UK. People become glued to their seats and with ever increasing variety and quality of television broadcasting available the trend does not look set to change.

The study looked at data from the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases which are archives of all the major medical papers already written on this topic. The researchers also carried out a cohort study.

The study found that risk of developing a fatal disease rose more significantly when a person spends more than 3 hours a day watching television.

Really this study is not telling us anything that we did not already strongly suspect. A more important question has to be, why do people spend 2-3 hours a day watching television? What can be done to encourage people to do something different?

When I used to work in the banking industry I spoke with many people who never did anything but watch television in the evening after work. Some people planned their whole weekly television viewing in advance to ensure that they never missed anything.

A typical evening view for an average tele-addict would involve 60-90 minutes of soap operas, 30 minutes of a news channel then a TV series or late night film. And all of this after a day spent sitting at a desk in an office.

It really is hard to see what can be done to reverse the trend. Ironically there are more programmes on the television about weight issues, such as Supersize vs Superskinny and The Biggest Loser. These programmes explain the problems well but there is no evidence that they actually help people to make the changes they need to make to lose weight.

Weight loss reality TV seems to be becoming more popular and cooking and house hunting shows. However, none of these actually force a anyone up and out of their chairs. People are sitting on their sofas for 3 hours a day watching television programmes about people that are slowly killing themselves due to overeating and inactivity.

How are we going to get this country up on its feet again? Is the answer more fitness programmes on television and less diet ones? What happened to Mr. Motivator and the Green Goddess? They may have been ridiculed but they may well have helped far more people make a change than watching Dr Christian Jessen.


Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-Cause Mortality” by Anders Grøntved, MPH, MSc; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD. Published in JAMA. 2011;305(23):2448-2455. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.812. Abstract.

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