Teens who regularly attend family meals lower risk of eating disorders

Research published in the June issue of Pediatrics found that teens’ risk of eating disorders was affected by the number of family meals they attended.  In a review of 17 studies on eating habits, the authors found that when teens ate three or more meals a week with their families, they were: 35% less likely to develop disordered eating – including binging and purging, using diet pills, inducing vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, restricting, skipping meals, using food substitutes, and smoking cigarettes to lose weight;  12% less likely to be overweight; 20% less likely to eat unhealthy foods; and 24% more likely to eat healthy foods.

While it’s commonly believed that teens will avoid family meals, the authors found that “adolescents stated that they would most like their parents to prepare healthy meals at home. It seems that there is interest by adolescents as well as receptivity in participating in family mealtimes, eating healthy foods, and learning about nutrition.”

The authors praised the benefits of shared mealtimes: “For children or adolescents with disordered eating, mealtimes may provide a setting in which parents can recognize early signs and take steps to prevent detrimental patterns from turning into full-blown eating disorders. Indeed, dieting has been recognized as a precursor for the development of eating disorders. In addition, family meals are predictive of family-connectedness, which may encourage adolescents to talk about such issues within their families.”

Source: Pediatrics