Too Much Screen Time Raises Kids’ Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Screen time is linked to greater diabetes risk in children, a new study has found. Children who spend hours watching television and staring at smartphones or tablets are at raised risk of developing diabetes, warns new research.

Cases of diabetes, which has been dubbed as the silent killer for years, have risen sharply in a decade, with diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in children increasing sharply worldwide.

Previous research suggested a connection between increased screen time and an elevated risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes among adults, but researchers were still ambiguous about a possible association in children.

The latest study, by St George’s, University of London, now finds that spending a lot of time glued to a screen daily is associated with development of diabetes in children.

To reach their findings, a team of researchers looked at 4,500 students, aged between 9-10 years, from 200 primary schools in London, Birmingham, and Leicester, and assessed them for different metabolic and heart risk factors.

“These included blood fats, insulin resistance, fasting blood glucose levels, inflammatory chemicals, blood pressure and body fat. The children were also asked about their daily screen time to include TV, and use of computers and games consoles,” reads the study abstract.

Just 4 percent of the children said that screen time didn’t take up any of their day, while 37 percent said they spent an hour or less on it. Nearly 28 percent of the participating children said they spent 1-2 hours in front of the screen, 13 percent reported to clock up 2-3 hours daily while nearly one in five said they spent more than three hours staring at screen.

The researchers noted that a fifth or 22 percent of boys were more likely than 14 percent of girls to report they spent 3 or more hours on screen time.

The researchers found that daily screen time of three or more hours was strongly linked to levels of leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, fasting glucose and insulin resistance, factors that predict an increased risk of diabetes.

When compared with children who spent less than an hour a day in front of screens, those with higher screen time found to have 3.3 percent more body fat and 10.5 percent higher insulin resistance.

“Our findings suggest that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing type 2 diabetes risk factors, in both boys and girls and in different ethnic groups from an early age,” said the researchers.

“This is particularly relevant, given rising levels of type 2 diabetes, the early emergence of type 2 diabetes risk, and recent trends suggesting that screen time related activities are increasing in childhood and may pattern screen-related behaviours in later life,” they concluded.

The new study is published in the ‘Archives of Disease in Childhood’ medical journal on Monday.