Children aged 9-10 years, who consistently spend three or more hours watching TV, using computers and smartphones, are at high risk of developing diabetes, says a study.
The findings, published online in the journal of Archives of Disease in Childhood, indicated that one in five (18%) said they spent more than three hours on it everyday.
According to researchers, it also includes adiposity, which describes total body fat and crucially, insulin resistance, and it occurs when cells fail to respond to insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas to control levels of blood glucose.
“Our findings suggest that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing Type-2 diabetes risk factors, in both boys and girls and in different ethnic groups from an early age,” said the researchers.
“This is particularly relevant, given rising levels of Type-2 diabetes, the early emergence of Type-2 diabetes risk and recent trends suggesting that screen-time related activities are increasing in childhood and may pattern screen-related behaviours in later life,” they explained.
The researchers assessed a sample of nearly 4,500 nine to ten-year-old pupils from 200 primary schools in London, Birmingham and Leicester for a series of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors.
These included blood fats, insulin resistance, fasting blood glucose levels, inflammatory chemicals, blood pressure and body fat. These levels were all higher in children reporting more than three hours of daily screen time than in those who said they spent an hour or less on it.
The children were also asked about their daily screen time to include TV, and use of computers and games consoles.
Boys (22%) were more likely than girls (14%) to say they spent three or more hours on screen time, as were African-Caribbean (23%) kids compared with their white European (16%) or South Asian peers (16%).
There was a strong trend between a daily quota of three or more hours of screen time and levels of leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, fasting glucose and insulin resistance.