Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 18 September 2014

Eating as a family lowers obesity risk research finds

Published 09/06/2014 | 02:30

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Children who eat breakfast and dinner with their parents are less likely to over weight. Photo: Getty Images.
Children who eat breakfast and dinner with their parents are less likely to over weight. Photo: Getty Images. .

CHILDREN who eat breakfast and dinner with parents are less likely to be overweight than those who do not.

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But children who eat lunch with their parents are more likely to be overweight, research presented to the European Congress on Obesity revealed.

The new study, named Energy, covered eight European countries including the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland and Slovenia.

Some 7,915 children (mean age: 11.5 years) in these eight European countries completed a questionnaire at school.

Data on family meals, namely how often parents ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together with their child, was collected, along with the height and weight of children.

Analysis of the data showed that children who ate breakfast with their parents five to seven times per week were 40pc less likely to be overweight, compared with children who had breakfast with their parents two to four times or less per week.

Similarly, children who had dinner (the evening meal) with their parents five to seven times per week were 30pc less likely to be overweight than children who had dinner with their parents two to four times or less per week.

However, the study also found that children who ate lunch with their parents five to seven times per week were 20pc more likely to be overweight compared to those who ate lunch with their parents two to four times or less per week.

The authors said: "The odds of being overweight were lower for children who ate breakfast and dinner with their parents five to seven times per week – but higher for children who ate lunch with their parents compared to those who did not."

They add: "These results show that having family meals together, such as breakfast and dinner, may be of importance to a healthy weight status of children.

"The results concerning lunch may be explained by the fact that in some countries children eat lunch at school (ie a packed lunch or lunch from a school canteen) more frequently, while in other countries children more frequently go home for lunch.

"Further research needs to be done to work out the reasons behind these findings."

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