Binge watching TV linked to disease: Australian study

Excessive hours of sitting to watch TV has been linked to an increased risk of dying from inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, according to an Australian study.

Sep 18, 2017, updated Sep 18, 2017
A study has found an increased risk of dying from inflammatory disease for those who spend more than four hours watching TV a day. File image

A study has found an increased risk of dying from inflammatory disease for those who spend more than four hours watching TV a day. File image

The study of more than 8900 adults, published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found each additional hour of TV viewing was associated with a 12 per cent increased risk of inflammatory-related death.

Those who spent more than four hours a day watching TV were at greatest risk.

Inflammatory diseases cover a vast array of disorders and conditions that are characterised by inflammation, including kidney disease, diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead investigator at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Dr Megan Grace says while more research is needed the findings build on growing evidence about the negative impact prolonged sitting has on health.

“People should be attempting to sit less and move more throughout their day because we do believe their are health benefits,” Grace said.

Researchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute quizzed adult participants about the viewing habits via a questionnaire between 1999 and 2000.

The were categorised into three groups based on their TV viewing habits; less than two hours, greater than two hours but less than four hours; and more than four hours.

At the 12-year follow-up, 909 people had died. Of these deaths, 130 were inflammatory-related, and 172 non-inflammatory related.

Of the inflammatory-related deaths, 21 were from diseases of the respiratory system and 18 of the nervous system.

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The researchers observed a 54 per cent higher risk of inflammatory-related death in those who watched between two to four hours of TV a day.

According to the authors, those who watched more than four hours of TV a day had a two-fold risk of dying from an inflammatory disease compared to those who watched two hours.

“TV time was associated with increased risk of inflammatory-related mortality. This is consistent with the hypothesis that high TV viewing may be associated with a chronic inflammatory state,” the authors wrote.

Those who spent more time watching TV were older, less likely to have completed at least 12 years of education, had lower household income and were more likely to be smokers, the authors noted.

Inflammation in the body is a normal response where chemical are released into the blood in response to a harmful event to help recovery.

Grace says when the immune system senses danger such as stress or infection, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues.

However inflammation can become harmful if these chemicals hang around for long periods, causing disease.

“Our findings suggest that perhaps inflammation is important and this is something we would like to pursue in the future,” Grace said.


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