Children who eat breakfast with their families 'less likely to be obese'

 

Health Reporter

Children who regularly eat breakfast and dinner with their parents are considerably less likely to be overweight, according to a new European study.

Experts said that parents who ate with their children were not only more likely to be ensuring meals were nutritious and healthy, but that togetherness at mealtimes was a marker for “family cohesion”, which carried other health benefits.

In a study of nearly 8,000 children living in eight European countries, researchers found that those who ate breakfast with their parents five to seven times per week were as much as 40 per cent less likely to be overweight, than those who had a family breakfast just two to three times a week.

The effect was similar, but slightly smaller, for dinner. Children from families which ate together more regularly were 30 per cent less likely to be overweight than those who sat down for dinner less often.

Intriguingly, the same effect was not seen in children who regularly ate lunch with their parents, who were in fact more likely to be overweight, said researchers from the University of Adger in Norway.

The study did not look at the dining habits of children in the UK, but experts said the findings carried particular lessons for British families, because UK workers tend to work longer hours than their European counterparts – meaning parents often have even less time to spend with children.

Dr Gavin Sandercock, senior lecturer in clinical physiology at the University of Essex, said that even eating together “occasionally” would be of benefit to UK families.

“It seems to have a big impact,” he said. “So, while doing it every day would be ideal, maybe just encouraging people to have breakfast or dinner as a family a couple of times a week would be helpful.”

The health benefits of eating breakfast are well-established, with studies showing that people are much less likely to indulge in unhealthy snacking throughout the day if they eat in the morning.

In the UK, around a third of children often go to school without breakfast, according to Dr Sandercock’s own research. Sitting down to a family breakfast was an effective way of ensuring children ate something in the morning, he said.

However, evidence of the benefits of a family dinner were new, he added. 

“Eating dinner together is probably a marker of family cohesion and family organisation,” he said. “Dinner doesn’t make you thin… but if a family is organised they are more likely to do organised, physical activity. It’s also a likely indicator of parental rules, which could be rules on snacking, rules on things like television time, and rules on what children are eating.”

Dr Frøydis Vik, from the University of Adger’s Department of Public Health, said that the findings suggested families who ate together generally had a healthier lifestyle, but admitted that evidence of the negative associations of a family lunch were “unexpected”.

She said they might be due to children in some countries returning home from school for lunch, and having a “rushed meal”, which might be less nutritious because parents had little time to prepare.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss