Skipping television and more home-cooked meals area associated with less obesity in adults.
Distracted or mindless eating is the enemy of a slim waistline. Many prior studies have looked at eating at home and watching TV during meals as a risk for weight gain or obesity. Few studies have analyzed large, population-based samples to examine how mealtime practices or family meal frequency are associated with health, but either could be a welcome and simple addition to your weight loss plans.
A new study from 2017 looks at these questions. The focus of this study was to evaluate associations between the frequency of family meals eaten at home, watching television or videos during family meals, and consumption of meals that were cooked and eaten at home and the odds of being obese in adults. This study was an analysis of the cross-sectional 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey which was a telephone survey.
A total of nearly 13K participants participated. To participate, each has to consume one meal or more in family setting during the prior week. Obesity or a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 was the primary outcome. The BMI was calculated from self-reported height and weight. Family meal frequency was not associated with increased odds of obesity. In fact, those who ate family meals most (6-7) days were as likely as those who ate family meals few (1-2) days to be obese.
The significant findings were that meals cooked at home and without TV were most likely to have a lower weight and BMI. Thirty-six percent of adults never watched television or videos while eating family meals and were less likely to be overweight or obese, Also, 62% ate family meals that were all home-cooked and were also less likely to be obese.
Adults who never watched television or videos during family meals had 37% lower odds of obesity compared with those who always did, regardless of family meal frequency. Adults whose family meals were all home-cooked had 26% lower odds of obesity than those who ate some or no home-cooked family meals. This association was more pronounced among adults who ate very few family meals.
The bottom line: Family meal practices are linked with obesity in adults, even if they eat very few family meals per week. I would recommend that you eat home-cooked family meals at home and flip off the TV. Future research should examine more aspects of shared meals and investigate which specific practices may impact obesity risk. The results are links and do not indicate a causal association. This study is consistent with other studies on television and obesity.