Digging beneath the headlines

I write more than my fair share of headlines, between my blog, my job, and my freelance work. Yet the real news seemed buried in this little item.

Obesity is a family affair

I clicked on this headline with a bit of trepidation, and learned that yes, a child's weight is linked to their parents via genetics, but also via lifestyle. Which isn't really all that shocking. Any physical trait (known as a phenotype) has input from both genes and the environment, and weight is no different. Neither is height. The study was published in the American Journal of Sociology and you can read the abstract here.

The story was typical of the hysterical reporting on obesity that parents are going to kill their kids of TEH FATZ because Mom and Dad didn't go for a jog every evening. The two largest environmental factors affecting a child's weight was time spent watching TV/video games and number of meals eaten per week.

Whether or not a family regularly skipped meals had a large (sorry!) impact on a child's weight. The more skipped meals, the higher the child's weight. Author Molly Martin had this to say in the news story:

She said there are multiple reasons that children miss or skip meals. One is that the family may simply not have the resources to have three square meals a day, she said. Another is hectic family lifestyle, where the family could be missing a meal because they just don't have the time. Or, for some teens, they may be deliberately skipping meals in a misguided attempt to lose weight.

Whatever the reason, Martin said that when you miss a meal, you'll likely end up hungrier later and may overeat then.

"I think the importance of family meals is something that should be underscored," added Andrea Vazzana, clinical coordinator of the pediatric weight management program at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City.

"Kids that sit down with their family tend to have a more normal weight. Parents can provide structure for the meal, and the meal tends to be more well-balanced. Parents can also set limits around food," explained Vazzana, who added that when parents eat with their kids they can let them know that it's not a good idea to have two helpings of dessert first and then forgo the vegetables.

I just wish this portion had been highlighted more. But the Health Day article was the only one that even gave the importance of meals more than a passing mention. Of all of the media emphasis on "lifestyle factors" in regards to obesity, they could have started out with the importance of regular meals, rather than everything else.

I'm just doubtful that most people will hear about this and pick up on it.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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