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Mealtime habits may affect obesity levels

Published: 28 Nov 2013

New research appears to have confirmed the idea that families could be healthier and happier if they sit down to eat meals together, rather than grabbing something to consume in front of the television.

A study carried out by Dr Brian Wansink and Dr Ellen van Kleef at Cornell and Wageningen Universities in The Netherlands looked at the links between the everyday habits families stick to and the body mass indexes (BMIs) of 148 children and 190 parents.

The higher the parents' BMI, the more likely they were to have their dinner while watching something on TV. However, lower BMIs were linked to eating the evening meal at a table in the dining room or kitchen.

Interestingly, the connection between a healthier BMI and a more social dining experience seemed to be particularly profound for boys, especially if their families remained seated and waited until everyone had finished their meal before leaving the table.

Writing their report on the study in the journal Obesity, the researchers said it may be that eating in front of the TV leads to distractions and might make people more likely to overeat. In addition, they suggested that talking with each other whilst sharing a family meal could create positive emotions that negate the need to comfort eat.

Either way, the findings could have important implications for those families on the lookout for ways of avoiding the obesity epidemic that seems to be plaguing the western world.

 The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has already been trying to take steps to get families more involved in preventing obesity. Earlier this month, it issued new guidelines aimed at parents that suggested starting a health plan and keeping a food and activity diary so that any overly sedentary periods or excessive snacking can be spotted.

Three in every ten children aged between two and 15 are now classed as being overweight or obese, which the watchdog said could have serious implications on their quality of life both now and in the future.

This research could be something that you use to spark conversation with your clients if they mention they are worried about their or someone they loves health.

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