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New study indicates that parents' influence on children's eating habits is small
Date:5/29/2009

The popular belief that healthy eating starts at home and that parents' dietary choices help children establish their nutritional beliefs and behaviors may need rethinking, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. An examination of dietary intakes and patterns among U.S. families found that the resemblance between children's and their parents' eating habits is weak. The results are published in the May 25, 2009, issue of Social Science and Medicine.

"Child-parent dietary resemblance in the U.S. is relatively weak, and varies by nutrients and food groups and by the types of parent-child dyads and social demographic characteristics such as age, gender and family income," said Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition. "When looking at overall diet quality, parent-child correlation in healthy eating index score was similar for both younger and older children. To our knowledge, this is the first such study that examined the similarities between children's and their parents' dietary intakes in the United States based on nationally representative data. Our findings indicate that factors other than family and parental eating behaviors may play an important role in affecting American children's dietary intakes."

Researchers examined data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, a nationally representative multi-stage sample of 16,103 people containing information about dietary intake, socioeconomic, demographic and health parameters surveyed from 1994 to 1996. Average dietary intake and dietary quality indicators were assessed using two 24-hour dietary recalls provided by study participants. Researchers also assessed the overall quality of the participating children's and their parents' diets based on the USDA 2005 Health Eating Index (HEI) along with a number of
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Contact: Natalie Wood-Wright
nwoodwri@jhsph.edu
410-614-6029
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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