Family Support Necessary Part of Addressing Adolescent Obesity
> 10/18/2007 10:45:11 AM

University of Minnesota professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer recently lead a team of researchers in a comprehensive longitudinal study of 2,500 adolescents. The group's work, which will appear in the upcoming edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, highlighted several important ideas about weight, obesity, and health. Confirming previous concerns, the group found that damaging behaviors, such as abusing laxatives or inducing vomiting, are prevalent among overweight teens and thinner teens alike.

As reported by the AP, the study found:

That 44% of the girls and 20% of the boys were either overweight, engaged in binge eating or had used extreme weight-control measures such as purging or abusing laxatives, diet pills or diuretics.

Of the overweight adolescents, about one fourth of the girls reported using extreme measures, while 10% reported using extreme measures as well as binge eating. Only about 12% of overweight boys used extreme measures.

Another aspect of the study illustrated that teasing and pressures from peers and family contributed to future weight issues. This evidence suggests that efforts to call attention to, or even shame teens about their weight may be counterproductive. Instead, parents need to be supportive of their children, and try to instill in them healthy behaviors. Dr. Neumark-Sztainer and others believe that parents can do the most good by setting strong examples of healthy eating, and by providing positive mealtime offerings and attitudes. Another recent study found that family meals set the tone for better school outcomes and less drug abuse, but this new line of inquiry may point to even greater positive results. It may not be a new idea, but this new research adds more evidence to the importance of family meals. Sitting down as a family may not be a possibility for every family on every night, but more and more, researchers are finding that sharing a meal with your child is a perfect time to set a course for a healthy future.

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