NEW YORK CITY, New York: New studies are finding that middle-aged people who predominantly turn to TV for entertainment have a greater risk of losses in their abilities to reason and remember later in life.
In fact, researchers said that even moderate amounts of TV viewing could worsen performance on cognitive tests as people age. Normal TV watching also saw greater brain deterioration among viewers, according to the research.
Researchers noted that they could not say whether it was watching television that caused the brain decline or the sedentary lifestyle associated with watching television.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the act of watching TV itself that is bad for brain health, but that it may potentially be a proxy measure of sedentary behavior,” said Priya Palta of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
All three studies were presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Conference.
“It definitely rings true to me that both sedentary behavior and the things that go along with it, like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, could lead to a gradual accumulation of brain injury over time,” American Heart Association President Dr. Mitch Elkind said. “The brain is also supplied by the blood vessels, and diseases of the heart and the blood vessels can lead to brain problems, like cognitive decline and even dementia,” he added, as quoted by Reuters.
Palta’s study involved some 6,500 participants who watched nearly the same amount of television over a six-year period of time in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.
The participants were placed in three groups — those who never or seldom watched TV, those who sometimes watched, and those who often or very often watched. They underwent a series of brain performance tests to track changes in their abilities.
“We found that compared to participants that reported watching very little television, participants that reported watching moderate or high amounts of television had about a 7 percent greater decline in cognitive function, based on their performance on cognitive tests over 15 years,” Palta said.
A second study performed research on about 970 people who had regular TV viewing habits. They underwent brain scans to document changes in their brain structures.
This research found that people who sometimes or frequently watched TV had greater brain atrophy or deterioration, said lead researcher Kelley Pettee Gabriel of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama.
These findings suggest “that this sedentary behavior may impart a unique risk with respect to brain and cognitive health,” Dougherty said.