Television watching habits may influence dental health, says study

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Television watching habits may influence oral health, study finds

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A new study out of Brazil has linked excessive television watching among children to higher levels of sugar intake and subsequent dental caries. (Image: Jovan Barajevac/Shutterstock)

Mon. 28. October 2019

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BELÉM, Brazil: Television can often play a key role in determining what foods people purchase, thanks to its high concentration of food product advertisements. Unfortunately, the kinds of food products that are advertised are overwhelmingly high in sugar, fats and salt, and highly processed. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that a recent study has linked excessive television watching among children to higher levels of sugar intake and subsequent dental caries.

The observational, epidemiological and cross-sectional study was conducted by a team of researchers in Brazil and sought to evaluate the impact that television has on the dietary habits of 12-year-olds in the city of Belém. Of the 545 students who were chosen to participate, 510 were included in the final sample.

Each participating child was subject to a clinical oral examination to check for signs of caries as well as for missing or filled teeth. The study participants then filled out a questionnaire regarding their television watching, intake of cariogenic foods while watching television, and consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks after seeing them advertised on television.

The results showed that 53% of the children measured who watched television for more than 90 minutes per day had some form of caries—39% more than those who watched for less than 90 minutes per day. In addition, they were 33% more likely to eat high-sugar foods.

The majority (72%) of the participants’ parents said that they buy food products after their children have seen them advertised on television.

The influence of advertising on the excess consumption of high-sugar foods and drinks has been demonstrated by numerous studies, and some governments around the world have taken action to combat this trend. Dental Tribune International recently reported that the Singaporean government had taken steps to ban the advertising of high-sugar drinks across all domestic mass media platforms in an attempt to decrease the city-state’s diabetes rate.

The study, titled “The influence of television on the food habits of schoolchildren and its association with dental caries,” was published online on Sept. 5, 2019, in Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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