Volume 93, Issue 88

Thursday, March 16, 2000


Council opts for budget

Western shops for best policy

Coke isn't it for McGill students

Toronto strike force to take aim at rave scene

Binge drinking on the rise

Dinner time helps health



Caught on campus

Dinner time helps health

By Adam Stewart
Gazette Staff

The good old days of family togetherness may have meant more than just quality family time.

A study conducted at the Harvard School of Medicine and funded by both the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, indicated increased health benefits for children who eat dinner with their families, said Matthew Gillman of the Harvard Medical School.

Gillman explained the study, which was published in the Archives of Family Medicine yesterday, was conducted by mailing questionnaires to approximately 16,000 children, between the ages of nine and 14.

All participants in the study were the children of nurses, since it was expected they would have better eating habits.

Gillman added the study asked the children about their regular intake of 130 different foods, ranging from fruits and vegetables to junk food.

The researchers then compared the consumption of these foods with the frequency of children eating with their families, he said.

The study found children who frequently ate dinner with their families had better dietary habits. Gillman explained those with better diets consumed more nutrients from food such as fruits and vegetables and ate less sugars and fats.

"We're not sure the results can be generalized to other population groups," Gillman said, adding the foods consumed and the frequency of family dinners were generally the same between the children of nurses and the children of parents with other jobs.

"Ensuring good nutrition in children leads to less obesity," said Tom Freeman, chair of family medicine at Western.

"If you have a poor diet at an early age, it puts you at an increased risk of chronic diseases at an older age," Freeman warned.

He added this is the basis of public health programs such as food stamps for people on welfare and the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program which encourages a healthy diet for children.

Freeman stressed more studies were needed to investigate the health benefits which result from parents and children spending more time together. He added families who eat meals together may have greater interaction.

Western sociology professor Roderic Beaujot agreed that meal time helps strengthen a family.

Beaujot said the care expressed through eating together is what sustains the community and the family. Without spending time together, the group would cease to be a family, he added.

Gillman recognized the barriers which prevent parents from spending more time with their children, namely busy work schedules, but said it was vital that a serious effort was made by parents to change this..

"The quality of one's diet has an impact on the quality of one's health," he stressed.

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