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TV the heart killer?

Tuesday January 12th, 2010

The more television you watch, the greater your risk of heart disease, researchers said last night.

Researchers said their conclusion was little to do with lack of exercise or poor diet.

They believe the sedentary nature of TV watching is what aggravates heart disease risk - and say the same findings may apply to any activity that involves long periods of sitting down.

British experts admitted they were perplexed by the findings - and called for more research.

The conclusions come from a study of more than 8,000 Australian men and women over the age of 25 and studied them for six years. During that time there were 284 deaths, some 87 from heart disease and 125 from cancer.

Writing in the journal Circulation, the researchers say they found that for every hour spent in front of the television, the risk of death from heart disease was increased by 18 per cent and from cancer by nine per cent.

Factors such as smoking, obesity, diet, exercise and even blood pressure and cholesterol made no difference to the link.

Researcher Professor David Dunstan, of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Victoria, Australia, said: "What has happened is that a lot of the normal activities of daily living that involved standing up and moving the muscles in the body have been converted to sitting.

"Technological, social, and economic changes mean that people don' move their muscles as much as they used to - consequently the levels of energy expenditure as people go about their lives continue to shrink.

"For many people, on a daily basis they simply shift from one chair to another - from the chair in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television."

Critics will say the length of the study - six years - was not a long period to establish the link, especially as many of those in the research were young adults.

Fotini Rozakeas, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Previous research has not suggested such a dramatic link.

"It raises questions such as if you are physically active, and not overweight, are you still at risk if you watch a lot of TV? And how much is too much? Further research is needed as many people will be very surprised by these findings."

* Another piece of research published today argues that few of the packed lunches given by parents to their children meet the nutritional standards set down for school meals.

Schools now have to comply with tough rules over the meals they provide and snacks they sell children. Some have even tried to police lunch-boxes.

The study of 1,300 children in 89 schools in the UK found that just one per cent of packed lunches complied with the rules. Crisps, sweets and sugary drinks dominated.

Researcher Charlotte Evans, of Leeds University, UK, reports her findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Circulation doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.894824
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2010; doi 10.1136/jech.2008.085977

Tags: Australia | Cancer | Fitness | General Health | Heart Health | UK News

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