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Study: Calm family meals linked to healthier kids' weights

Positive, calm and friendly family meals might help a child avoid becoming overweight or obese, a study suggests.

Children seem less likely to add on extra pounds if family meals feature pleasant conversation, positive encouragement and no disorder caused by kids acting out, University of Minnesota researchers said. For the study, they watched hours of video recordings of family meals.

"In the households where kids were overweight, there was less of a positive atmosphere at the table," said study author Jerica Berge, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota. "It was a little more chaotic overall."

The study builds on prior research that linked frequent family meals to a reduced risk of childhood obesity. Berge and her colleagues decided to see what occurs at a meal that might influence that risk.

They asked 120 families to record their meals using iPads. From the videos, researchers noted the length and type of meals served, how family members interacted and how these factors related to a child's weight. Negativity at the table seemed to be associated with obesity.

The findings were published online in the journal Pediatrics. -- HealthDay

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