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TVs in bedrooms may make kids fat
Study links obesity to lack of sleep

By Sharon Kirkey

CanWest News

Oct 19 2006

BEDROOM televisions could make children fat, according to a British researcher who says rising rates of obesity could be linked to the fact children are sleeping less than they used to.
Evidence is mounting that too little sleep causes changes in hormones that makes children want to eat more and exercise less, says Dr. Shahrad Taheri, a lecturer in medicine at the University of Bristol.

He says televisions, computers, cell phones and other "gadget distractions" should be banished from bedrooms to help ensure children get adequate sleep.

"I think it's about time that somebody put out the message that sleep could be important in the obesity epidemic," he said in an interview.

Some studies suggest 61 per cent of children aged eight to 17 have a television in their bedroom. According to the most recent estimates, about 30 per cent of children in Canada are overweight or obese.

In the lead article published Wednesday in Archives of Disease in Childhood, Taheri cites 13 major studies linking short sleep duration with increased body weight. He says the relationship appears to be even "more robust" in children.
One study of three-year-olds found pre-schoolers who slept less than 10 hours a night were more likely to be obese. Another found that six- and seven-year-olds who had less than eight hours of sleep a night were nearly three times as likely to be obese compared to children who had more than 10 hours of sleep.

The problem may be an imbalance between the hormones leptin and ghrelin, according to Taheri.

Leptin is produced by fat cells. It signals to the brain when it has enough energy, or fat stores, on board. Low levels of leptin signals an energy deficit, pushing the body into starvation mode as it tries to conserve energy. That leaves people feeling weak and lethargic.

Meanwhile, ghrelin, the "hunger" hormone released by the stomach, was 15 per cent higher in children with a five-hour sleep quota.



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