Objective: To assess the role of television as tool for childhood obesity prevention.
Method: Review of the available literature about the relationship between television and childhood obesity, eating habits and body shape perception.
Results: The reviewed studies showed the following: television watching replaces more vigorous activities; there is a positive correlation between time spent watching television and being overweight or obese on populations of different age; obesity prevalence has increased as well as the number of hours that TV networks dedicate to children; during the last 30 y, the rate of children watching television for more than 4 h per day seems to have increased; children are exposed to a large number of important unhealthy stimulations in terms of food intake when watching television; over the last few years, the number of television food commercials targeting children have increased especially when it comes to junk food in all of its forms; the present use of food in movies, shows and cartoons may lead to a misconception of the notion of healthy nutrition and stimulate an excessive intake of poor nutritional food; and obese subjects shown in television programmes are in a much lower percentage than in real life and are depicted as being unattractive, unsuccessful and ridiculous or with other negative traits and this is likely to result in a worsening of the isolation in which obese subjects are often forced. The different European countries have different TV legislations.
Conclusion: The usual depiction of food and obesity in television has many documented negative consequences on food habits and patterns. The different national regulations on programs and advertising directed to children could have a role in the different prevalence of childhood obesity in different European countries. Television could be a convenient tool to spread correct information on good nutrition and obesity prevention.