Children glued to TV and tablets could be at risk of type 2 diabetes
Nearly 4,500 children aged between 9-10 years participated in a study from 200 primary schools across England, which looked at possible links between screen time and health.
The Child Heart and Health Study in England found the young people who were glued to computers, TVs and tablets for more than three hours a day had higher measures of body fat.
They also had higher levels of insulin resistance compared to children who spent less than an hour in front of a screen.
Co-author of the research Dr Claire Nightingale, a medical statistician at St George's, University of London, said: "Our findings suggest that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing type 2 diabetes risk factors, in both boys and girls, from an early age.
"This is particularly relevant, given rising levels of type 2 diabetes, the early emergence of type 2 diabetes risk, and recent trends suggesting screen-related activities are increasing in childhood."
The research team looked at blood fats, fasting blood glucose levels, blood pressure and body fat in the children.
They discovered a trend in the children who watched more TV had more body fat and higher levels of the hormone leptin, which controls appetite.
One third of the children spent less than an hour of screen time a day, while 28 per cent said they were glued to a screen for up to two hours.
A total of 13 per cent said their tally was between two to three hours and 18 per cent clocked up more than three hours on a screen.
Previous research has shown a link between sedentary behaviour in adults and a heightened type 2 risk, but this is the first time it has been shown that children could also be at risk.
Dr Nightingale said: "It would be very difficult to carry out this research today as smartphones and tablets are so universal. Children today therefore spend even more time looking at a screen than when the original dataset was taken."
The findings have been published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.