The objective of this study was to identify the influence that watching television has on food intake and obesity in children and adolescents. A systematic review of the MedLine, PubMed, SciELO-Brasil and Lilacs databases was done which resulted in 73 articles published between 1997 and 2007. Articles with adults or preschoolers, notes, communications, reviews, samples of specific populations (Indians for example) or diseases (except for obesity) and intervention studies were excluded, resulting in 20 articles for analysis. In six of eight Brazilian studies, there was a significant association between watching television and obesity. In one of them, there was also a significant association between watching television and food intake. In six of ten international studies, there was a positive association between watching television and obesity and a negative association between times spent watching television and doing physical activity. In five out of six international studies that investigated food intake, there was a significant association between watching television and food intake. It was also found that children and adolescents who spend more time watching television tend to consume less fruits and vegetables and more salty snacks, sweets and sugar-rich beverages. The association between watching television and food intake was evident, found in 85% of the articles, and the association between watching television and obesity was found in 60% of the articles. Since time spent watching television is associated with unhealthy food habits and reduced levels of physical activity, it becomes an important factor in the promotion of obesity in children and adolescents.
Adolescent; Food consummation; Child obesity; Overweight; Television