Essential Science: Linking screen time and obesity together

Posted Oct 28, 2019 by Tim Sandle
New research suggests that too much screen time, for young people, is correlated with an increased consumption of sugary-foods and caffeine. This draws a connection between the use of devices and obesity.
A woman blogs on her computer.
A woman blogs on her computer.
Digital Journal
The connection between screen time and unhealthy behaviors comes from McMaster University. The study revealed that teenagers who spend a high proportion of the day using electronic devices tend to drink more sugary and caffeinated beverages.
In terms of the adverse health impact from the high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, this leads to obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia, dental caries, and poor sleep hygiene. The World Health Organization and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of energy intake should come from added sugars in food or beverages.
With the addition of caffeine to the beverages, this is a reason for sleep difficulties, headaches, elevated blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and chest pain, among young people, according to Laboratory Roots Magazine.
A girl watches a video game screen at the Barbican Centre  London.
A girl watches a video game screen at the Barbican Centre, London.
The study was based on an assessment of 32,000 students enrolled in eighth and tenth grade schooling (263 separate schools were assessed). The dataset was drawn from the U.S. 2013-2016 Monitoring the Future Survey.
The data reveals that over 27 percent of teenagers exceed recommended sugar intake, and a further 21 percent exceed the recommended caffeine daily levels. These figures related to both soda and energy drinks. Within these populations, there were more males who opted for unhealthy drinks compared with females.
A further pattern that emerged was that as the use of electronics increased, this became connected to a higher consumption of beverages. To quantify this, the research showed that for each additional hour of screen time per day this was connected to a 32 percent greater chance of exceeding the recommendations for sugar intake and a 28 percent higher risk of exceeding the caffeine consumption recommendations.
Lead researcher Dr. Katherine Morrison has called for counseling provision and health promotion to be put in place as so to curb the excess intake of sugar and caffeine among adolescents.
The research has been reported to the journal PloS One, with the research paper titled “Electronic device use and beverage related sugar and caffeine intake in US adolescents.”
Related research
The finding connects with other research which shows that an increased number of hours of screen time is associated with lower well-being in those aged 2 to 17. With this San Diego State University finding, the association is greater for adolescents than for younger children.
Office worker using a desktop computer.
Office worker using a desktop computer.
The reason why screen time can disrupt sleep is because the backs of a person’s eyes contain a sensory membrane - the retina. The innermost layer of the retina contains a tiny subpopulation of light-sensitive cells. as these cells are exposed to ongoing light, this triggers a protein termed melanopsin continually regenerates. As the protein regenerates, this process signals directly to the brain and this alters patterns of consciousness, sleep and alertness.
In related news, researchers have found that prolonged exposure to blue light, the light transmitted by smartphones, computers and household fixtures, could be affecting a person’s longevity. This seems to be the case even if the generated blue light not shining into a person’s eyes:
READ MORE: Study: Too much screen time may speed up ageing
Essential Science
Farmer Picchi drives a tractor pulling a sowing machine to plant sorghum in the town of Estacion Isl...
Farmer Picchi drives a tractor pulling a sowing machine to plant sorghum in the town of Estacion Islas
� Enrique Marcarian / Reuters, Reuters
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we looked at the agri-businesses, especially the adoption of AgriTech and the use of economics, which come together to help to improve agricultural production.
The week before we learned how climate change is impacting on the planet in different ways and threaten many species. Trends also indicate that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.