ObesiTV: how television is influencing the obesity epidemic

Physiol Behav. 2012 Aug 20;107(1):146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.05.022. Epub 2012 Jun 4.


Obesity is a major public health concern in the United States. Over the last several decades, the prevalence of obesity among both adults and children has grown at an alarming rate and is now reaching epidemic proportions. The increase in obesity has been associated with rises in a host of other chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. While the causes of obesity are multifaceted, there is growing evidence that television viewing is a major contributor. Results of numerous studies indicate a direct association between time spent watching television and body weight. Possible explanations for this relationship include: 1) watching television acts as a sedentary replacement for physical activity; 2) food advertisements for nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods stimulate food intake; and 3) television viewing is associated with "mindless" eating. In addition to decreasing physical activity and increasing the consumption of highly palatable foods, television viewing can also promote weight gain in indirect ways, such as through the use of targeted product placements in television shows; by influencing social perceptions of body image; and airing programs that portray cooking, eating and losing weight as entertainment. This paper will provide an interdisciplinary review of the direct and indirect ways in which television influences the obesity epidemic, and conclude with ways in which the negative impact of television on obesity could be reduced.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Age Factors
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / etiology
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Television*
  • United States / epidemiology