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Children at heightened risk of diabetes if they spend more time on smartphones, TV

Researchers have added to the long risk of factors that could cause diabetes – increased screen time – and this one is particular applicable to children.

According to a team of scientists if children spend more than three hours staring at TVs, computer screens or gadgets in general, they are at an increased risk of suffering from type-2 diabetes. The study and its findings are published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The study notes that diabetes is often considered to be an age related disease, but it just so happens that it is slowly transforming into a lifestyle disease and people who suffer from unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, family history, or other medical conditions may end up suffering from diabetes as well.

Researchers note in the study that increased levels of body fat and insulin resistance in children could be caused by regular and extended periods of screen time. For the study researchers analyzed data from nearly 4,500 children, and found that those who spent more time glued to the screen had biological markers known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Children at heightened risk of type-2 diabetes showed signs that their bodies weren’t as good at processing sugar, a condition known as insulin resistance — the hallmark of diabetes. The kids were also asked about their daily screen time, including TV, computers and game consoles.

Findings indicated that only four per cent of the kids said they never spent any time staring at screens, while just over a third (37 per cent) said they spent an hour or less on it. And just over a quarter (28 per cent) said they clocked up 1-2 hours, while 13 per cent said their daily tally was 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, one in five (18 per cent) said they spent more than three hours in front of screens each days.

The study also revealed that revealed a fifth of boys (22 per cent) spend more than three hours of day on screen time. This compared to only 14 per cent of girls spending the same amount of time in front of screens.

Scientists said their findings were of “considerable potential public health interest” but emphasised further research was needed to prove the link between diabetes risk and screen time.

“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 said.

Previous studies have shown adults who spend long periods of time glued to screens have an increased risk of gaining weight and developing type 2 diabetes, however, a possible association in children still needs more research.

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