THURSDAY, Nov. 18, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Gathering around the family dinner table each evening may help lower risks for eating disorders in girls, suggests a University of Minnesota study.
Regular family mealtimes appear to encourage healthy eating in all kids, the researchers added.
The study of nearly 4,800 adolescents found that teen girls who ate regular family meals in a structured and positive environment were less likely to use extreme weight-control measures such as chronic dieting, vomiting and diet pills.
For example, the researchers found that girls who joined in at least five family meals per week were at one-fourth the risk of developing an eating disorder compared to girls without a history of regular family mealtimes.
The findings appear in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Boys also benefit from regular family meals but not as much as girls, the study found.
"Since society has so much influence on adolescents because of the high prevalence of obesity and the pressure to be skinny, many girls are turning to unhealthy ways of controlling their weight," study author Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor of epidemiology, said in a prepared statement.
"Prioritizing structured family meals that take place in a positive environment can protect girls from destructive eating habits," she said.
Families can be creative about how they schedule meals together, Neumark-Sztainer said. For example, organizing a regular family breakfast may be easier to arrange than dinner.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about eating disorders.