Television watching, diet and body mass index of school children in Saudi Arabia

Ahmad H Alghadir, Sami A Gabr, Zaheen A Iqbal
Pediatrics International: Official Journal of the Japan Pediatric Society 2016, 58 (4): 290-4

BACKGROUND: Watching television has been widely associated with various health and psychological outcomes in children. Excessive intake of carbonated, sweetened beverages and fast foods, inadequate intake of fruit and dairy products; and reduced levels of physical activity also pose a risk to healthy lifestyle among youth. Limited literature is available, however, on the cross-cultural aspects of duration of television viewing, diet preferences and their effect on weight in school children in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia. We conducted an online survey in school children in Saudi Arabia (age 12-16 years) to determine whether there is any association between duration of daily television watching, body mass index (BMI), eating habits and diet preferences.

METHODS: A self-administered questionnaire was uploaded online and the link was sent to school children, inviting them to participate in the study. It included questions on demographic data; family medical status; daily routine in and after school; number of hours of daily TV watching, self-perception of health and daily diet habits and preferences.

RESULTS: A total of 220 children aged between 12 and 16 years participated in the present study. There was a higher duration of television viewing, and higher consumption of high-fat fast foods and high-sugar drinks, and this was significantly associated with BMI (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: The availability of television in children's bedrooms, and of high-fat foods and drinks at school and in other cafeterias in Saudi Arabia seems to be the major cause of the association between sedentary lifestyle and dietary habits, which needs to be checked and limited. Parents and teachers need to be trained because they can play a major role in its prevention. Saudi Arabia is a growing country banking on its youth. Their awareness can prevent the incidence and lower the prevalence of such ill health habits among them.

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