The Endocrine Society
The Endocrine Society
March 29, 2019
2 min read

Metabolic syndrome more likely in teens who snack while watching TV

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NEW ORLEANS — Adolescents who spend more time in front of screens are at higher odds of developing metabolic syndrome than those who spend less time engaged in such activities, and this association is enhanced substantially when combined with snacking, according to findings presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting.

Beatriz Schaan

“These [screen] habits are frequently associated with other harmful habits, such as distracted eating, drinking soda, eating junk food or eating excessively. These habits we know are associated with obesity,” Beatriz Schaan, PhD, of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, said during a press conference. “Eating unhealthy snacks in front of screens is a habit that is probably harmful, but the relationship between this and obesity is well-known, but not with metabolic syndrome.”

Using data from the Study of Cardiovascular Risks in Adolescents in Brazil, Schaan and colleagues performed logistic regression analysis to find potential associations between screen time and metabolic syndrome, with snacking also considered. A total of 33,900 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years (mean age, 14.6 years; 59.4% girls) were asked to report how often they spent time watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, broken down by daily measures of 2 hours or fewer, 3 to 5 hours and 6 hours or more. Participants also self-reported whether they snacked at any point during these activities. Snacking while watching TV was reported by 85.1% of the study population, and snacking while playing video games or using the computer was reported by 64%.

The researchers found that the odds for metabolic syndrome were higher for participants who spent 6 or more hours using a screen (OR = 1.71; 95% CI, 1.04-2.79) compared with participants who reported spending 2 hours or fewer using screens. However, the odds were particularly high for participants who reported snacking while watching TV (OR = 2.68; 95% CI, 1.68-4.11) and using the computer/playing video games (OR = 2.05; 95% CI, 1.24-3.38). Increased odds for metabolic syndrome were also seen in the group that reported screen time of 3 to 5 hours per day and snacking, both when watching TV (OR = 1.96; 95% CI, 1.37-2.8) and playing video games/using the computer (OR = 1.77; 95% CI, 1.15-2.72).

“Strategies to assess and address metabolic syndrome in the pediatric population should aim at limiting unhealthy snacks while in front of screens,” Schaan said. “We have studies in the literature with multiple interventions in schools, parents, with families considering education and other healthy habits to educate parents and children and schools, and the results are not so good. It’s possible it will not result in anything. It’s possible we have to have actions that are more widespread like laws and environment changes.” – by Phil Neuffer



Schaan B, et al. OR21-5. Unhealthy snack intake modifies the association between screen-based sedentary time and metabolic syndrome in Brazilian adolescents: Findings from a country-wide survey. Presented at: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting; March 23-26, 2019; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Schaan reports no relevant financial disclosures.