No, I’m not saying that there is some sort of secret radio waves emitting from your flat screen, just that all those hours glued to the boob tube really can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and contribute to an early death.
A new study, published in the latest issue of JAMA, has found that watching two to three hours of television a day increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 percent, fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease by 15 percent, and dying early from any cause by 13 percent. That last statistic actually goes up the more television you watch per day.
According to the authors, who hail from the University of Southern Denmark and Harvard School of Public Health, "While the associations between time spent viewing TV and risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were linear, the risk of all-cause mortality appeared to increase with TV viewing duration of greater than 3 hours per day."
It’s not so much the shows themselves, but the lack of activity and increased food consumption that comes with television viewing. Watching TV is by nature a sedentary activity, leading to lack of muscle tone and weight gain. People who spend large amounts of time have been shown to eat more fried foods, sweetened beverages, and generally less health foods (such as fruit and vegetables), which also helps to pack on the pounds and alter cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Both sedentary activities and poor food habits are contributing factors to metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by a cluster of at least three of the following cardiovascular risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. Both cardiovascular disease and diabetes can be the result of metabolic syndrome.
Go ahead, watch your favorite sitcom, maybe catch a bit of the news, or watch a baseball game, just don’t make it a habit. You’ll not only be doing your health a favor, you will have time to read the newest bestseller, take a walk with a friend, or…heaven forbid…clean out the garage.
Snack Food Alternatives
Chips are a mainstay of the couch potato diet. They are basically carbs, oil and salt, with some fake flavoring added. You can do better, especially since just one ounce of chips is on average 150 calories, and most people devour at least 3 ounces in a sitting.
Try one of the following healthier savory alternatives and you will be pleasantly surprised:
Whole grain pita and/or carrots with hummus dip: Easy to grab, available in every market. One cup of baby carrots with hummus is less than 1 ounce of chips. Add in some crackers and a bit more hummus and you have a snack equal to 2 ounces of chips. But…you are eating whole grains, vegetables, and very little oil or salt.
Kale chips: These are the hot new food item and are now available in mainstream markets. In fact, I even saw them last week at SFO’s new Terminal 2, where one whole center stand was devoted to kale chips at Napa Farms Market and Eatery. You can even make a tasty batch at home with kale from the farmer’s market and they are so easy! So you get your veggie, high in magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A & C, and only about 55 calories in 2 ounces.
Popcorn: Orville Redenbacher makes a Natural Buttery Salt & Cracked Pepper popcorn that will satisfy every chip lover. Each mini bag pops up to about 6 cups and is only 160 calories. It’s 100% whole grain, no trans fat, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.