Does a family dinner guarantee slimmer kids?

05/23/05

One trend that has paralleled the rise of obesity in the last two decades has been the decline in frequency of children eating dinner with their families. Elsie Taveras, instructor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and colleagues surveyed the frequency of family dinner among more than 14,400 9- to 14-year-olds and incidence of overweight. At the beginning of the three-year study, reported in the May issue of Obesity Research, the odds of being overweight were 15 percent lower among children who ate family dinner on "most days" or "every day" compared with those who ate family dinner "never" or "some days." However, longitudinally, the researchers found no association between likelihood of becoming overweight and frequency of family dinner.

"Although family dinner seems to have multiple benefits and should be encouraged from the perspective of improving diet quality," Taveras said, "overweight prevention may not be one of the benefits."

Previous studies have shown that family dinners are associated with greater consumption of fruits and vegetables; less fried food, soda, and saturated and trans fat; lower glycemic load; and more fiber intake.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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