High levels of TV consumption can lead to unhealthy habits
The study of 12,642 private and public school students found that for every extra hour of TV watched, beyond the average of 2.5 hours a day, kids between 5th and 10thgrades were 5% less likely to eat vegetables every day, and 8% were less likely to get hold of daily fruit.
'It certainly is consistent with the idea that TV is maybe adversely affecting dietary intake and food choices,' said Leah Lipsky, who worked on the study at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, along with colleague Ronald Iannotti.
Children who watched television beyond the average period made snack choices such as fizzy drinks and sweets, ahead of fresh produce.
The findings from the research may indicate that an unstructured day has negative consequences for children.
A 2010 study conducted by Michigan and Montreal universities also highlighted the long-term negative impacts of children's TV-watching habits.
It found that the negative effects on older children rose with every hour of toddler TV watched. It measures key indicators in toddlers at the age of two and again at the age of ten and concluded that higher levels (more than the recommended two hours a day) of TV viewing at two was linked to a lower level of engagement in the classroom and notably poor achievement in mathematics.
Confirming the findings of the study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, it also found that those children who watched more television also had a higher BMI (body mass index) and consumed more soft drinks.
Dr Linda Pagani, of the University of Montreal, who led the research which was published in the Journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, said that structure was key for children's development: 'Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour. High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to unhealthy habits.
'Common sense would suggest that television exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks that foster cognitive, behavioural and motor development.'