Family meals cut teenage fatness

10/31/05

They might prefer to be in front of the TV or Playstation, but Brisbane teenagers are likely to be healthier if they eat meals with mum and dad.

University of Queensland researchers working on the world's longest health study found teens who ate regularly with their family were less likely to be overweight.

Lead researcher, Dr Abdullah Al Mamun from UQ's School of Population Health said regular family meals could reduce snacking and make for healthier food and social habits.

"Eating together will enable the parent to have better knowledge of the child's food choices and amount that they tend to eat," Dr Mamun said of the study, which appears in the latest edition of American journal, Obesity Research.

The study found having a healthy maternal attitude to family eating and diet was more important than the frequency of shared meals.

Even though most mothers said they had a family meal at least once a day, only 43 percent of them said eating together was very or quite important.

The findings have been drawn from the world's longest running health study -- the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy, which has followed the progress of Brisbane mothers and their families since 1981.

The survey of 3795 mothers and their teenagers was collected in Brisbane when the teenagers were at age 14, in 1995.

It showed about half the families ate red meat most days and one-fourth had fast food most days or two to three times per week.

Even though more than half of the families had children who played sports four to seven days a week about 40 percent still found enough time to watch five or more hours of TV a day.

Dr Mamun's paper was co-written, with Mater and University of Bristol researchers and fellow UQ researcher and Mater Study founder, Professor Jake Najman.

The Mater Study was started in 1981 by Professor Najman as a health and social study of 7223 pregnant women.

Researchers have followed the children's growth over the decades and study was widened to include prenatal, postnatal, childhood and adolescent periods of the child with those babies now in their early 20s.

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