*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Your teens’ route to a healthy or unhealthy weight may be in their hands — literally.
New research out of South Korea shows that teens who spend too much time on their smartphones are also more prone to eating habits that increase their odds of obesity.
One nutritionist who helps treat obesity in the young wasn’t surprised by the findings.
“Spending hours on end on your phone — or any blue-light screen — can disrupt our sleeping patterns, and less snooze can affect our appetite-stimulating hormones, causing hyperphagia [overeating],” explained registered dietitian Sharon Zarabi, who wasn’t involved in the new research.
In the new study, researchers tracked the health of more than 53,000 South Korean adolescents, aged 12 to 18. The team found that those who spent more than two hours a day on their smartphone were much more likely to eat larger amounts of junk food, while consuming fewer fruits and vegetables, compared to those who spent less time on their phones.
Specifically, teens who spent five or more hours a day on their phones were more likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, chips, and instant noodles than those who spent less than two hours a day on their phones, said a team led by Hannah Oh, assistant professor at Korea University.
All of this added up to added pounds: Teens who spent more than three hours a day on a smartphone were also significantly more likely to be overweight or obese, the findings showed.
The reasons teens used their phones appeared to matter, too. Those who did more information searches and retrieval on their phones had healthier eating behaviors versus those who used their phones more for chatting/messenger, gaming, video/music, and social networking.
As for obesity, teens who primarily used their smartphones for gaming or looking at videos, or listening to music were more likely to be heavy, according to the study presented June 7 at a virtual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, its findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.