The main results of our study suggest that excessive TV viewing is positively associated with CVD risk factors such as HDL-C, glucose, Apo A-1 and a continuous CVD risk score in adolescents, independently of potential confounders including weight status. These findings provide some evidence regarding the detrimental role of excessive TV viewing on CVD risk factors development in adolescence. In addition, further analyses revealed that weight status might modify the influence of TV viewing on abdominal body fat. Thus, the negative influence of TV viewing on WC remained in the overweight group but was attenuated in the non-overweight group.
Several studies in adults have shown similar findings to those found in the current study. In these studies the time spent watching TV has been positively associated with CVD risk factors [11
]. For example, Healy et al. [17
] showed a detrimental dose-response association of TV viewing with WC, systolic blood pressure and 2-h plasma glucose in 4064 Australian adults [17
]. Recently, Dustan et al. [34
] have shown that excessive TV viewing is associated with increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality in 8800 Australian adults. Similar results were found in a men sample where the combination of time riding in a car and time spent watching TV were positively associated with CVD death [35
Despite of these findings in adult populations, the evidence linking TV viewing to CVD risk factors in children and adolescents is limited. For example, positive associations between TV viewing and abdominal body fat have been found in cross-sectional studies [15
]. Nevertheless, several reviews have stated the weakness of these findings because poor results have been found in longitudinal and interventional studies [8
]. Significant associations between TV viewing and blood markers (TC, insulin and glucose) [17
] and blood pressure have also been found in children and adolescents [19
]. However, only in some cases body fat indicators were included as a confounder variable into analyses. For this reason, we cannot know whether the influence of TV viewing on CVD risk factors is independent of body fat-direct role- or whether body fat plays a pivotal role between TV viewing and a less favorable CVD risk factor profile-indirect role.
In the European Youth Heart Study, Ekelund et al
] reported an independent association between TV viewing and metabolic syndrome risk factors in 1921 children and adolescents from 3 regions in Europe (Denmark, Estonia, and Portugal), but this association was mediated by adiposity (sum of 4 skinfold-thicknesses). Hence, the authors concluded the importance of reducing the time spent watching TV among children and adolescents in order to reduce directly body fat, and indirectly CVD risk factors. On the contrary, the associations between TV viewing and several CVD risk factors in the current study were not mediated by weight status. Interestingly, we also found that the influence of TV viewing on WC varied by weight status. The detrimental influence of TV viewing was maintained in the overweight group but not in the non-overweight group. These results suggest that reducing TV viewing time in overweight adolescents may have a beneficial influence on abdominal body fat. This interesting finding might explain the mixed effects found in intervention studies that decrease sedentary behaviors in apparently healthy and overweight children and adolescent [8
TV viewing is commonly used as a proxy to describe sedentary behavior even though the capacity to describe sedentary time using this approach is constantly questioned [36
]. New research directions have used objective methods to assess daytime sedentary patterns and several reports have suggested the use of accelerometry for these purposes [38
]. Assessments using objective measures follow the idea of "inactivity physiology" posited by Hamilton et al
]. In order to observe the differences between both methods, we have previously assessed sedentariness
using sedentary time by accelerometry, and TV viewing and computer use by parent-report in a 3- to 8-year-old sample [20
]. On average, children spent 5 hrs/day in sedentary time and 1.5 hrs/day in screen time (TV + computer). These results show large differences between both methods. We consider that sedentary behavior with or without technology-mainly sitting time- and sedentary behavior using new technologies -mainly TV viewing- must be considered independently each other because both may be important in the development and prevention of CVD.
TV viewing in children and adolescents is usually associated with unhealthy behaviors. Firstly, TV viewing is associated with high consumption of soft drinks, salt, snacks, fat and low fruit and vegetable consumption [40
]. Secondly, TV viewing may contribute to the development of sleep problems from adolescence to adulthood [41
]. Thirdly, TV viewing may restrict the possibility of youth to participate in physical activity [42
]. Fourthly, TV viewing contributes to inactive physiology as mentioned above. Hence, when reduction of time watching TV is suggested to prevent obesity and CVD risk factors, we may have influence on diet, sleep, physical activity and physical inactivity patterns that occur concurrently with TV viewing. Therefore, it is necessary to develop actions to reduce time watching TV from an early age. For children and adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatric recommends limits to no more than 2 hours per day of sedentary technologies, especially TV viewing [10
]. Similarly, the Healthy People 2010 initiative promoted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included the following objective: "to increase the proportion of adolescents who view television 2 or fewer hours on a school day
. As other authors [43
], we could not use the 2 hours per day cut-off point. In our study, more than 50% adolescents spent >3 hrs/day watching TV, which is a similar prevalence to that found in a previous study in adolescents [44
Results found in our study confirm that an overweight status is positively associated with individual (WC, TG, HDL-C, LDL-C, apo A-1, apo B-100) and clustered CVD risk factors in adolescents. Therefore, a special focus of attention must be aimed at overweight adolescents who view too much TV. Moreover, future studies are encouraged to evaluate more health indicators in addition to obesity outcomes (e.g. BMI, % body fat, WC) because the evidence is scarce with other CVD risk factors. For example, in addition to the traditional CVD risk factors related to the metabolic syndrome, we have analyzed the associations of TV viewing with Apo A-1, Apo B-100, and lipoprotein(a). Thus, our results suggest that Apo A-1 is inversely and independently associated with TV viewing. Recently, childhood and adolescence Apo A-1 levels have been considered predictors of subclinical atherosclerosis in adulthood [45
Several limitations must be also mentioned in the current study. Our results are limited due to its cross-sectional design and causal directionality cannot be inferred. Moreover, one blood sample was used and that might not accurately reproduce long-term lipid and metabolic abnormalities. Unfortunately, blood pressure was not available in the AVENA Study, and therefore, we cannot compare findings from previous studies. TV viewing was measured using a single-response item. This type of questions to assess TV viewing has been widely used in large sample studies because objective measurements (direct observation, video, TV time manager) are not usually feasible in population studies. In children and adolescents, an adequate reliability and acceptable validity of these single 1-item questions to assess TV viewing have been observed [46
]. In spite of this, single-response questions are preferred rather than combined questions (e.g. How many hours do you usually spend watching TV and using computer per day?) because computer use and video game play may have a different effect on metabolic and physiologic parameters [47
]. Finally, we did not assess dietary patterns during TV viewing. Ekelund et al
] found that associations between TV viewing and CVD risk factors and adiposity were attenuated when dietary behavior while viewing TV was controlled into the model although results were not shown.