Family meals have been identified as a protective factor against obesity among youth. However, gender specificities with respect to the relationship between the frequency of family meals and body mass index (BMI) have not been investigated. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the frequency of family meals and BMI in male and female adolescents, while controlling for potential confounding factors associated with BMI, such as parental education, adolescent's age, and snack-food eating. Research participants were 734 male and 1030 female students (mean age, 14.12 years, SD = 1.62) recruited from middle schools and high schools in the capital region of Canada. Participants completed validated, self-report measures to assess the frequency of family meals and the risk factors associated with increased BMI, which was derived from objective measures of height and weight. After controlling for proposed confounding variables, a higher frequency of family meals was associated with lower BMI in females, but not in males. A Z-transformation test of the homogeneity of adjusted correlation coefficients showed a significant trend (p = 0.06), indicating that the relationship between family meals and BMI is stronger in females than males, consistent with our regression analyses. Our findings suggest that eating together as a family may be a protective factor against obesity in female adolescents, but not in male adolescents. Findings from this study have important implications for parents and health care practitioners advocating for more frequent family meals as part of a comprehensive obesity prevention and treatment program for female adolescents.

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Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism
Department of Psychology

Goldfield, G.S. (Gary S.), Murray, M.A. (Marisa A.), Buchholz, A. (Annick), Henderson, K, Obeid, N. (Nicole), Kukaswadia, A. (Atif), & Flament, M.F. (Martine F.). (2011). Family meals and body mass index among adolescents: Effects of gender. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 36(4), 539–546. doi:10.1139/h11-049