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Obesity is a Family Affair
Date:12/10/2008

Skipped meals, too much TV time end up harming kids, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Although genetics likely play a role in whether or not someone becomes overweight or obese, a family's lifestyle also has a major impact on the chances of a teenager winding up overweight, a new study shows.

Adolescents tended to be heavier in families that frequently missed meals or spent several hours a day in front of the TV or video games, researchers report in a special issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

"My study finds that weight runs in families, but it's not just because of genetics. What we do together, how we spend our time together, what we eat and how we organize ourselves as family matters," said study author Molly Martin, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Currently, about 17 percent of American children and teens are overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the new study, Martin included data from more than 2,500 pairs of twins, siblings or half-siblings. She examined numerous factors that could contribute to a teen's weight status, such as parental obesity, socioeconomic status, parental education levels, birth weight, activity levels and more.

Two factors that emerged as separate from a family's genetic influence were whether or not families missed meals, and the amount of time they spent watching TV or playing video games.

"Not skipping meals seems to be the biggest factor that can help with regard to the weight of kids," said Martin.

She said there are multiple reasons that children miss or skip meals. One is that the family may simply not have the resources to have three square meals a day, she said. Another is hectic family lifestyle, where the family could be missing a meal because they just don't have the time. Or, for some te
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