To avoid obesity, doctors and nutritionists suggest changing our eating habits and exercise regularly. Now, a new study by the researchers from the Ohio State University has found having home-cooked meals and turning off the TV while eating them may help reduce your risk for obesity.
The study also showed that the frequency of a family eating meals together didn’t make much of a difference in their obesity risk.
“How often you are eating family meals may not be the most important thing. It could be that what you are doing during these meals matters more,” says lead author Rachel Tumin.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than one-third of the U.S. population is affected by obesity. In a country where 1 in 3 adults are obese, more than 1 in 20 are considered extremely obese.
Obesity can lead to several diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
The survey was carried out jointly by Rachel Tumin, population health analyst manager at the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center, and Sarah Anderson, Assoc. Prof. of epidemiology at Ohio State’s College of Public Health.
Tumin and Anderson set out to investigate the connection between family meals and obesity risk.
The duo examined data from the 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey – a telephone survey conducted on the population of Ohio.
The survey consisted of 13,000 adults, who ate at least one family meal in the last one week.
In the study, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30. Researchers calculated BMI for each participant based on their self-reported height and weight.
To assess the link between family meal patterns and obesity, the researchers used logistic regression models. Factors such as ethnicity, employment and marital status, age, and educational level were also accounted for.
All-inclusive, over half of the adults said that they ate family meals on most days of the week. Also, 35% of the participants said they had family meals on some day, while 13% reported having them occassionally.
Among the participants, around a third were deemed obese, and approximately one-third watched TV or movies most of the time during their meals. Another 36 percent reported never watching TV during family meals, and 62% reported having only home-cooked meals with their family.
No link between the frequency of family meals and the risk of obesity was found in the study.
The researchers found, participants who reported never watching TV or videos during family meals were much less likely to be obese compared to those who said they always watched something during mealtime.
Additionally, adults who ate only home-cooked meals with their family were less likely to be obese compared to those who consumed only some or no home-cooked meals.
The adults with the lowest risk of obesity, according to the study, were those who always consumed home-cooked meals and never watched TV or videos during mealtime, the authors conclude.
The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.