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Can Talking About Healthy Eating Reduce Adolescent Disordered Eating Behaviors?

Summary and Comment |
July 16, 2013

Can Talking About Healthy Eating Reduce Adolescent Disordered Eating Behaviors?

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAPAU939

When parents discussed healthy eating rather than dieting and weight, adolescents were less likely to report disordered eating.

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAPAU939

How should parents discuss eating habits and weight with their teenagers? To examine this question, investigators analyzed data from two linked population-based studies involving 2300 ethnically diverse adolescents (mean age, 14 years) and 3500 parents or caregivers. Parents were classified as having no conversations about eating (healthy or otherwise) or weight with their children, healthful eating conversations only, or conversations about weight only.

Among nonoverweight adolescents, parental discussions about healthy eating had little or no effect on adolescent reports of dieting, unhealthy or extreme weight control behaviors, or binge eating, compared with no parental discussions about eating or weight. In contrast, parental conversations about weight increased the probability that nonoverweight adolescents would report such behaviors. Among overweight adolescents, parental discussions about healthy eating lowered the probability that adolescents reported any weight-control behavior while conversations about weight increased the risk, compared with overweight adolescents whose parents did not talk about eating or weight. Conversations about weight with both parents was associated with more adolescent reports of some, but not all, weight-control behaviors in both nonoverweight and overweight adolescents compared with conversations with only one parent.

Comment

These results are quite straightforward. Parents should avoid conversations about weight or size (or talking about eating differently to lose weight or avoid gaining weight). Rather, the dialogue should center on healthy eating, which could involve the adolescent's eating patterns or, perhaps even better, that of the entire family. Because the development of weight-control behaviors is complex, such conversations will not completely eliminate the possibility that adolescents will adapt unhealthy weight-control behaviors, but hopefully discussions about healthy eating will reduce the risk somewhat.

  • Disclosures for Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP at time of publication Editorial boards Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews; JAMA Pediatrics

Citation(s):

Reader Comments (2)

Angel GUEVARA, MD Physician, Health Law/Ethics/Public Policy, Clinica Salus Infirmorum

It looks good, adolescents don't like only control, they look for and listen to arguments, maybe we adults must change.

SUSAN KOLLER Other Healthcare Professional, Other, 305 Westfield Drive Knoxville, TN 37919

I am vry pleased to have the opportunity to view some of the ground -breaking news from Journal Watch.

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