According to a 10-year longitudinal study, increased family meal frequency during adolescence was associated with a reduced odds of overweight or obesity (Berge JM et al, J Pediatr 2015; 166: 296-301, editorial 220-21).
The data from this study derived from Project EAT I and EAT III which examined at baseline middle school and high school students at 31 public schools in Minnesota. Ultimately the participants (n=2117) were followed over 10 years.
- “Results showed that eating family meals together, ranging from 1-2 to 5 or more times during 1 week, was significantly predictive of lower odds of being overweight or obese 10 years later.” This effect was largest among African American participants.
- Odds ratios for overweight/obesity was similar with any frequency of family meals compared to no family meals: 1-2 times/week OR 0.67, 3-4 times/week OR 0.50, and 5 or more/week OR 0.68
Why does this occur?
There is not an answer to this question.
Speculation from the authors:
- “Healthier meals”
- “Opportunities for emotional connection”
- “Parental modeling”
In my view, family meals may be an epiphenomenon. It may be a marker for a more organized household which is likely to have some favorable effects.
Bottomline: Another reason to eat together. Besides having a chance to catch up on your kids, it may keep them healthier.
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