Tele-Tubbies and Your Health

by Dr. Kevin O’Hara D.C.

There are three major trends in both children’s and adult’s health that have public health workers concerned: an increase in obesity, attention deficit disorder (AAD), and the amount of time spent watching television. Recent research indicates that television may be the culprit that leads to the first two health concerns. 

Excessive amounts of TV leads to obesity in two ways. First, every hour spent “vegging” is an hour spent being inactive. Kids should be outside running around, riding bikes, and playing with their friends. Adults ought to be more involved in hobbies and community events requiring some physical activity. Sitting in front of the tube, you burn fewer calories and your overall metabolism becomes slower. A number of studies also show that those who watch television eat more food. 

In addition, this has detrimental effects on the brain’s cognitive function, especially in kids. Studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that children who watch more than two hours of television per day struggle more with aggressive behavioral problems, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and a dramatically increased risk of alcohol consumption as teenagers. Although most studies have been conducted on children, other studies show that the results are just as valid for adolescents and adults. These negative effects can be explained by understanding the effect television has on the brain. 

Broadcast television in the United States has a particular frequency of flicker that cannot be seen, but which has an effect on brain function. A number of studies that have measured brain wave activity in people while they watch television noticed that the brain waves were similar to being in a trance-like state, which is associated with a decreased function of the cerebral cortex—the critical thinking part of the brain. When in this state for several hours per day, it becomes more difficult to focus attention and control impulses. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no more than two hours of television per day and even more beneficial if reduced even further. Many health experts now encourage parents to completely eliminate television for children under age seven, by which time their brains have had the chance to develop a bit more.

Dr. O’Hara’s office is located at 940 S. Arthur Avenue in Arlington Heights. For more information, call 847/577-3597 or visit

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