Family meals could reduce the risk of obesity in teens, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Columbia University suggest that frequent family meals, which tend to include fruits, vegetables, calcium, and whole grains, could prevent overweight and obesity in adulthood.Increasing rates of adolescent obesity and the likelihood that obesity will carry forward into adulthood, have led to various preventive initiatives.
“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,” researcher Jerica Berge said in a statement.
For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from a 10-year longitudinal study involving nearly 3,000 subjects to examine weight-related variables (e.g., dietary intake, physical activity, weight control behaviors) among adolescents. Questions were asked to assess family meal frequency and body mass index.
Fifty-one percent of the subjects were overweight and 22 percent were obese.
Among study participants who reported that they never ate family meals together, 60 percent were overweight and 29 percent were obese at the 10-year follow-up.
Overall, all levels of baseline family meal frequency, even having as few as 1 to 2 family meals a week during adolescence, were 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.
Results also showed a stronger protective effect of family meal frequency on obesity among black young adults compared with white young adults. However, the limited significant interactions overall by race/ethnicity suggest that the protective influence of family meals for adolescents spans all races/ethnicities.
Family meals may be protective against obesity or overweight because coming together for meals 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.
The findings can give parents another tool in the fight against obesity.