"Children whose families engaged with each other over a 20-minute meal four times a week weighed significantly less than kids who left the table after 15 to 17 minutes. Over time, those extra minutes per meal add up and become really powerful," said Barbara H. Fiese, director of the U of I's Family Resiliency Program.
Childhood obesity in low-income families is a complex problem with many contributing factors, which may include being part of a single-parent family, having a mother who has little education, and living in a poor neighborhood without easy access to healthy foods, she said.
But, even as these risk factors accumulated, the study found, low-income children's participation in regular high-quality family mealtimes made a difference in their weight status.
"Three to four extra minutes per meal made a healthy weight more likely," she said.
In the study, researchers observed 200 family mealtimes, testing the cumulative effects of socioeconomic factors and mealtime behaviors of families with children in elementary school. They noted the importance families placed on sharing a meal, efforts made to schedule family meals, and whether the family attached special meaning to this practice.
Socioeconomic circumstances mattered. Children raised in single-parent households were more likely to be overweight or obese than kids raised in two-parent families, she said.
And, at the neighborhood level, high concentrations of children living in poverty were associated with greater risks for childhood overweight or obesity in the home, she added.
Quality of interaction also mattered. Families who said that shared mealtimes are an important part of family life and have special meaning for them were less likely to have an obese child. And families who talked more together and interacted more positively during the meal were more likely to have healthy-weight children.
Teaching low-income families how to make the most of family mealtimes is a workable intervention, Fiese noted.
"This is something we can target and teach. It's much more difficult to change such factors as marital status, maternal education, or neighborhood poverty."
But it may not be enough to advise families that eating together four or more times weekly is beneficial if they don't have the time, resources, or ability to communicate positively with each other, she added.
Many low-income parents are pressured for time, meaning that planning ahead, budgeting, shopping, preparing a healthy meal, and then sitting down to enjoy it with their children is challenging, she said.
She recommends developing and delivering programming that includes information on the importance of shared family mealtimes, time management, stress management, parenting skills, cooking lessons, and shopping strategies.
If parents are taught to value family mealtimes and learn to make them a priority, they can protect their children from the harmful effects of living in an environment with fewer resources, she said.
"It's also important to recognize the increasing diversity of families and their sometimes complex living arrangements that may challenge their abilities to plan ahead and arrange a single time to communicate with each other," she added.
Family mealtimes: A contextual approach to understanding childhood obesity is in the December 2012 issue of Economics and Human Biology and is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570677X12000603. Co-authors are the U of I's Amber Hammons and Diana Grigsby-Toussaint. Funding was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health and USDA.
Phyllis Picklesimer | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine