Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Children who have family meals are 'less likely to be overweight and binge on junk food'

This is just another demonstration of better health in middle class families

Children who sit down to eat with their families are less likely to be overweight and eat unhealthy foods, according to researchers. They found youngsters who ate with their parents at least three times a week were 12 per cent less likely to be overweight.

The children were also 20 per cent less likely to eat junk food, 35 per cent less likely to have eating problems like skipping meals or bingeing, and 24 per cent more likely to eat vegetables and other healthy foods.

'Sitting down together as a family, there are nutritional benefits from that,' said Amber Hammons, from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, whose findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

However, the latest paper reviewed 17 studies that were based on observations not actual experiments, and Professor Hammons acknowledged this didn't prove shared meals trim waistlines. 'It's just an association,' she said. 'Families who sit down together could be healthier to begin with.'

According to the NHS, one in six boys and one in seven girls were classed as obese in 2008. . The number of overweight children was also around one in seven. The extra pounds can affect a child's self-esteem and sets them up for health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The new report is based on findings from nearly 183,000 children about 2 to 17 years of age. While those studies yielded mixed results and weren't easy to compare, overall they show regular family meals are tied to better nutrition.

Professor Hammons said it's possible that parents may influence and monitor their kids more during shared meals. 'We also know that families that sit down together are less likely to eat high-calorie food,' she added.

As a result, the researchers encourage families to spend more time together around the dinner table. 'It doesn't have to be every day,' Professor Hammons said. 'We know that families are very busy.'


Vitamin Poppers May Make Less Healthful Choices

Test subjects who thought they'd taken a supplement made less healthful food and exercise choices than people who did not think they'd had a supplement.

It can be tough to keep up with dietary trends. Like eating eggs: good for you or bad? But one thing is certain. Taking a multivitamin is a healthy choice. Isn’t it? Not necessarily. Because researchers have found that people who take dietary supplements may make less healthful choices. The work appears in the journal Psychological Science. [Wen-Bin Chiou and Chao-Chin Yang, Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation: Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-risk Behaviors, link to come]

Half the population uses some sort of dietary supplement, and that figure is on the rise. Yet we don’t seem to be getting any healthier. So researchers took a closer look at how people who pop health pills actually behave. One group of volunteers was asked to take a dietary supplement, the other group was told they were getting a placebo. In fact, both groups received dummy pills. But it turns out that subjects who thought they’d taken a supplement made less healthy choices, opting for the buffet instead of an organic meal and walking less than their supplement-deprived pals.

It could be that folks who supplement feel like they’ve already done their duty when it comes to their health. So they’re more likely to indulge. Which suggests that these pills might not make us healthy, and certainly don’t make us smart.


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