Study Finds Eating as Family and Reduced TV Reduces Weight in Children

Researchers noted children also attained more quality sleep

The encouragement of meals as a family unit, limiting time in front of television and getting better quality sleep is all linked to a one-pound drop in children’s’ weight relative to those who do not receive such encouragement.

“I can tell a family, ‘You really need to get more physical activity’ and the conversation can end there,” Dr. Elsie Taveras, the study’s senior author from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, said.

The doctor then added, “I think that ability to go deeper and talk about their routines is key.”

Prior research found that particular routines such as eating alone or spending hours in front of the television each day were linked to the possibility of obesity.

The latest research is now showing that children in minority or low-income households are at a higher risk than white children or wealthier children for such risk.

Taveras noted that in her new study, her and her colleagues used 121 randomly chosen families who skewed black or Latino.

Half of the families were assigned to the counseling groups to receive education and encouragement for the positive lifestyle changes. None were told that the work was specifically looking at weight loss or obesity in children. The other 59 families were given educational materials but the concept of generalized routines was not brought up and obesity, again, was not noted as the goal of the study.

After six months the researcher noted that counseling groups were able to gain almost an hour more of sleep on average. Children in the counseling group also reduced television viewing for the children by one hour on average.

“Relative to the control group it was a small decrease, but not insignificant in a six-month period in growing children,” Taveras said.

“I’m encouraged anytime we find something that takes what we know, shows it works and that it’s feasible,” Dr. Shari Barkin, director of pediatric obesity research at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told Reuters Health.

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