A study has been published in the Journal of Pediatrics where the researchers studied whether frequent family meals during adolescence lowered the rate of obesity. Family meals tends to include fruits, vegetables, calcium, and whole grains.
The data from a 10 year longitudinal study involved 2,787 subjects and examined weight-related variables (e.g., dietary intake, physical activity, weight control behaviors) among adolescents. A survey was conducted to assess family meal frequency and body mass index.
According to Dr. Berge, “It is important to identify modifiable factors in the home environment, such as family meals, that can protect against overweight/obesity through the transition to adulthood.”
The study findings reveals that fifty one percent of the subjects were overweight and 22% were obese. In those adolescents where family meals were never present 60% were overweight and 29% were obese at the 10-year follow-up.
Having family meals, even 1-2 family meals, during a weak was significantly associated with reduced odds of overweight or obesity at the 10-year follow-up compared with those reporting never having had family meals during adolescence.
The researchers suggest that just having family meals may be protective against obesity or overweight as meal times may provide opportunities for emotional connections among family members, the food is more likely to be healthful, and adolescents may be exposed to parental modeling of healthful eating behaviors.
Jerica M. Berge, Melanie Wall, Tsun-Fang Hsueh, Jayne A. Fulkerson, Nicole Larson, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. The Protective Role of Family Meals for Youth Obesity: 10-Year Longitudinal Associations. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.08.030