Children who eat meals with their parents may be less likely to become overweight when they grow up, new research suggests.
A report published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that adolescents who eat meals with their parents are less likely to become overweight adults than children who don't share meal time with their parents.
This report underscores the values family time provides to overall health and wellbeing.
Jerica M. Berge from the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota led a team comprised of University of Minnesota and Columbia University researchers who studied adolescents who ate meals with their families.
The team was interested in knowing whether eating meals with family provided teenagers with protection against obesity in later life.
To accomplish this task, the team utilized information from the Project Eating and Activity in Teens -III (Project EAT) longitudinal cohort study. They gather data on 2287 adolescents whom completed surveys during middle school and high school in 1998 - 1999; the researchers then followed up with these adults in 2008 - 2009 to learn what had happened to them.
What they learned was that children who ate meals with their parents were less likely to become overweight adults than families who never ate meals together.
Eating Together Is Good For The Family
When Berge et al looked at data from the children ten years later (2008 -2009), they noted that of the 2117 young adults who completed the follow up survey, 51 % were overweight and 22 % were obese.
Moreover, when the researchers looked at the data in terms of family meal frequency, they found that 60 % of the young adults who reportedly never ate family meals during their teen years had grown up to become overweight adults, and 29 % of the young adults whom never ate meals with their parents were obese.
In contrast, only 47 % - 51 % of the teens who did share meal time (one to more than five meals per week) with their families became overweight adults, and 19 % - 22 % were obese.
When you think about it, the frequency of meals families ate together - ranging from none to more than five times per week - isn't extraordinary. What I mean by this is that even eating one meal per week with the family is better than no time eating together.
We know this because compared to families who never ate meals together, adolescents who ate 1 - 2 meals per week with their families in 1998 - 1999 were 45 % less likely to have become obese adults when surveyed in 2008 - 2009.
The children whom participated in the study attended 31 public schools in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area thus making for a very diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic sample. In other words, this data is applicable to just about everyone.
Berge and colleagues concluded that "All levels of family meal frequency were protective for young adult overweight, compared with never having family meals."
While Berge et al stressed that the study was not able to answer why family meals helped protect teens against becoming overweight, the research team did offer a few hypotheses to explain why family meals are beneficial to young people including family meals possibly being "healthier" than meals not eaten with family; the emotional connection that family meals can offer; and parental models of healthy eating behaviors and recognizing when the family has become full.
There is evidence supporting each of these hypotheses.
Research from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that families of bariatric surgery patients tended to lose weight because the surgery prompted healthy eating behavior among other members of the household.
Families who eat together have closer interactions and thus can talk to each other about their problems.
Child psychiatrist Foster W. Cline advises that parents who have overweigh children should talk to them about their eating habits. Cline's advice would seem very applicable when families sit down to have meals together.
Jennifer Falbe of Harvard Medical School found evidence that children who spend much of their free time watching television tend to grow up to become obese adults. If teens are eating meals with their families they might be less inclinded to devote that time to watching television.
Looking ahead to what more could be done about obesity prevention the study authors said: "Examining the quality (ie, emotional atmosphere, interpersonal interactions) of family meals would be an important next step to potentially provide more details regarding why family meals are protective and how they function on a day-to-day basis so more families can take advantage of the protective nature of family meals."
Yahweh provided the ancient Israelites with manna from heaven to feed the body, Jesus who is God offers food for our souls. His sacrifice is the only way to salvation and is available to all of us. All we have to do is humbly ask Him and He will give it to us.
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Berge JM, Wall M, Hsueh TF, Fulkerson JA, Larson N, & Neumark-Sztainer D (2014). The Protective Role of Family Meals for Youth Obesity: 10-Year Longitudinal Associations. The Journal of pediatrics PMID: 25266343
"Family Meals May Prevent Kids From Overeating" copyright © 2014 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.