How TV Time Might Affect Diabetes Risk

Type 2 diabetes risk tied to sedentary time spent watching TV in high-risk, overweight adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Could routinely watching that extra episode on TV affect your risk for a serious condition? New evidence suggests that it could.

A new study found that more time spent sitting still in front of the TV translated to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes among overweight adults.

"Sedentary behavior can eliminate all the benefits of a good exercise program," said Barry Sears, MD, president of the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead, MA, and creator of the Zone diet, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Standing up and watching TV for two hours is probably better than exercising for 30 minutes and then watching TV for 2 hours. Sedentary time means the less you are working against gravity."

According to the authors of this new study, led by Bonny Rockette-Wagner, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, sedentary time, or time spent sitting still (like in front of the computer or TV) may be tied to diabetes risk, but there are still many unknowns.

"To date, most lifestyle interventions designed to decrease diabetes risk have focused on weight loss, dietary change and increasing physical activity levels, but have not examined the contribution of sedentary time," Dr. Rockette-Wagner and team wrote.

To better explore the issue of time sitting still, Dr. Rockette-Wagner and team looked at data from the Diabetes Prevention Program, which involved 3,232 patients. These patients were either not treated, given a diabetes medication or enrolled in a lifestyle intervention program focusing on diet and exercise.

The patients were all 25 or older, overweight and at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly process insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. The condition can result in high blood sugar, which can lead to kidney damage and heart disease, among other health problems.

Patients in this study were followed for an average of 3.2 years and reported their sedentary time, both as time spent watching TV and time spent sitting at work.

Dr. Rockette-Wagner and team found that time spent watching TV and diabetes risk were linked. For every hour spent watching TV, diabetes risk increased by 3.4 percent.

Over the course of this study, the patients who were enrolled in the lifestyle program saw the greatest decrease in sedentary time. Dr. Rockette-Wagner and team noted that this was true despite reduced sedentary time not being a key goal of the program.

"Future lifestyle intervention programmes should emphasise reducing television watching and other sedentary behaviours in addition to increasing physical activity," Dr. Rockette-Wagner and team wrote.

This study was published April 1 in the journal Diabetologia.

A number of groups funded this study, such as the National Institutes of Health and Bristol-Myers Squibb. One study author had a financial tie to a company that creates online programs for behavioral changes.

Review Date: 
March 31, 2015
Last Updated:
April 6, 2015