Want to reduce your risk of developing diabetes? You might want to consider spending a little less time in front of the television, say researchers in announcing the results of a study.
For people who are prediabetic, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases 3.4 percent for every hour of television watching a day, they say.
For people who indulge in daylong "binge watchings," that could constitute a 30 percent increase in risk, the researchers report in the journal Diabetologia.
"With streaming TV, you can watch a program continuously; instead of watching just half an hour once day a week, you can watch a whole season in a day, so we expect to see increases in sitting to continue," says study senior author Andrea Kriska, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh.
The study analyzed data on more than 3,000 overweight adults participating in a Diabetes Prevention Program.
While the study could not demonstrate a direct cause-and-effect, the elevated risk associated with extended TV watching was seen whether or not study participants were on diabetes drugs or whether or not they engaged in healthy diets combined with exercise, the researchers determined.
Researchers say the findings are particularly troubling in light of the increase in obesity in the United States.
"As time goes on and people are getting less active and more overweight, the number of people at risk for diabetes is increasing by leaps and bounds," says Kriska, who is with the university's Graduate School of Public Health. "It's not a rare group of people" who could develop an increased risk of diabetes because of their sedentary habits, she notes.
The recent study is in line with previous research suggesting long periods of being motionless can negatively impact metabolism.
Long stints of sitting in front of a TV can also lead to overeating, experts say.
"I know when I'm sitting around watching TV, I'm more likely to graze and eat crappy food," says David Marrero, president of health care and education at the American Diabetes Association.
"When's the last time you measured out a portion size of potato chips and ate it in front of the television?"
The researchers have simple recommendations to reduce the risk of diabetes. One is a positive — more exercise — and the other is a corresponding negative: cut back on the hours spent in front of the television.
''Future lifestyle intervention programs should emphasize reducing television watching and other sedentary behaviors in addition to increasing physical activity,'' they wrote in their published article.