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Family dinners may decrease risk of obesity for children

Photo courtesy Flickr user Ian Freimuth

Although sit down family dinners are most commonly used to strengthen a family’s bond, a new study from the University of Minnesota shows eating dinner together has more than just emotional benefits.

According to the study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, having just

one sit down family dinner each week can decrease the risk of obesity for adolescents later in life.

As reported by Yahoo News, University of Minnesota psychologist and lead study author Jerica Berge, Ph.D., analyzed dated from the Project Eating and Activity in Teens study. The study tracked both eating habits and body mass index of 2,117 middle school and high school students, then followed up with the participants 10 years later. Berge found that their childhood frequency of family meals was strongly correlated with their weight-gain trajectory.

The study found young adults who ate just one or two family meals a week as kids were 45 perfect less likely to be overweight as compared to those who had never eaten with their families.

“Parents have all these messages coming at them about what to do to prevent adolescent obesity, here we’re providing a concrete thing parents can focus on. If you invest in one or two meals a week, it can make a difference,” said Berge.

Although the study didn’t ask what the participants were eating specifically, Berge acknowledged there are other factors at play. Researchers hypothesized when having family meals, parents are more likely to think about what they are serving, and what they are eating themselves.

“Parents are modeling communication and how to connect with one another, as well as modeling healthy eating and recognizing satiety cues,” she said. “Hopefully, parents are showing kids that they listen to their bodies about when to stop.”