COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s no shortage of studies linking too much television consumption to various delays and disadvantages. Similarly, research also shows that eating out too much can adversely affect one’s health. Now a new study finds that having family, home-cooked meals and keeping the TV off while eating “significantly” decreases the odds of obesity.
The study, conducted at Ohio State University, showed the frequency of home-cooked meals with the family didn’t seem to matter much in the study, but whether or not any kind of video was playing during the meal did.
“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, survey and population health analyst manager at the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center, in a university news release. “This highlights the importance of thinking critically about what is going on during those meals, and whether there might be opportunities to turn the TV off or do more of your own food preparation.”
Tumin and senior author Sarah Anderson, associate professor of epidemiology in Ohio State’s College of Public Health, examined data from 12,842 Ohio residents who participated in the Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey. The phone survey questioned the residents about their family eating habits (participants used from the survey had to have eaten at least one family meal in the past week), along with demographic information and body mass index measurements.
A third of the participants identified as obese, which was about the same amount who admitted watching TV or videos “most of the time” during family meals. Meanwhile, just 36 percent reported always keeping the television off during meals.
When it came to the frequency of family meals, 62 percent reported eating with their loved ones on most days, while 35 percent did so on “some days” and 13 percent on “few days” per week.
The researchers calculated that adults who avoided television during all meals had a 37 percent lower risk of obesity than those who always did. This held true no matter the frequency of family meals.
That said, they found that adults who enjoyed family meals all home-cooked also had 26 percent lower odds of obesity versus adults who ate some or no home-cooked family meals.
“Obesity was as common in adults who ate family meals one or two days a week as it was in those who ate family meals every day. Regardless of family meal frequency, obesity was less common when meals were eaten with the television off and when meals were cooked at home,” says Tumin.
Data from the demographic information reported in the survey was used for control factors in the researchers’ conclusions.
The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.