Researchers believe that coming together for meals may provide opportunities for emotional connections among family members, the food is more likely to be healthy and adolescents may be exposed to the parental model of healthy eating behaviour.

"Informing parents that even having one or two family meals per week may protect their child from being overweight or obese in young adulthood would be important," said co-researcher Jerica Berge from the University of Minnesota in US.

For Project EAT (Eating and Activity among Teens), the researchers used data from a 10-year longitudinal study (2,287 participants), to examine weight-related variables (dietary intake, physical activity and weight control behaviour) among adolescents.

Among adolescents who reported that they never ate family meals together, 60 percent were overweight and 29 percent were obese at the 10-year follow-up.

Overall, even having as few as one or two family meals a week during adolescence were significantly associated with reduced odds of being overweight or obese at the 10-year follow-up compared with those reporting never having had family meals during adolescence.

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