Does The Family Play A Key Role In Helping ‘Tweens’ Maintain A Healthy Weight?

The EC funded IDEFICS study has shown that children under the age of 10 who regularly eat in a family unit, have fun within a structured home environment, and have a sense of well-being reduce their risk of becoming overweight or obese by 50%.

These significant findings from the EC funded IDEFICS Study concerning the importance of family life are reported today (18 October 2012) at the European Childhood Obesity Group (ECOG) Congress in Palma de Majorca.

But does this continue once children enter the ‘tween’ years – neither a child nor yet a teenager – a period when more external influences come into play? This is one of the key questions being followed up in the I Family study.

Iris Pigeot, Deputy Co-ordinator of both IDEFICS and I Family (Professor of Biometry and Epidemiological Methods at BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Bremen, Germany)  says today at ECOG: “Children below the age of 10 remaining engaged with family life, particularly eating as a family unit, and with a sense of well-being reduce their risk of becoming overweight and obese by 50%. Their experience of a supportive and warm family environment is also key to maintaining a healthy weight.”

“This striking and significant effect is confirmed in our IDEFICS data based on a cohort of 16,000 children across 8 European countries.”

“What we will do now in the I Family study tracking that IDEFICS cohort,” continues Pigeot, “is to see how far the role of the supportive family continues to have this significant effect as children become ‘tweens’, whether this role is taken over by a child’s peer group, or whether other factors such as built environment have an increased impact.”

“The IDEFICS study demonstrated clearly that a child’s emotional well-being, their self-esteem, relationships within the family unit and social contacts are key elements to maintaining a healthy weight.  I Family will attempt to determine how far the role of the family unit is one of the critical factors – or indeed the critical factor – in supporting European ’Tweens’  to combat obesity.”

ENDS/ Notes follow

Available for interview Deputy Project Co-ordinator Professor Iris Pigeot
Contact Rhonda Smith of Minerva on +44(0)7887-714957 to arrange and for further media information


Notes for Editors:

1. The I Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 11 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries – Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.

2. The study has two strategic objectives:

i. to understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice
ii. to develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents.

3. The I Family Study is re-assessing the families first engaged with the IDEFICS study when children were below 10 years of age now that they move into adolescence – the ‘tween’ years – identifying those families that have adopted a healthy approach to food and eating habits and those that have not. I Family is adopting a holistic approach by also investigating the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that drive dietary behaviour as children journey towards adulthood.

4. I Family partners

Participant organisation Lead investigator(s) Key responsibilities
University of Bremen, Germany Wolfgang Ahrens Project coordinator
BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research GmbH, Germany Iris Pigeot German cohort, statistics
Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Italy Alfonso Siani Italian cohort, nutritional epidemiology
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark Lucia Reisch,
Wencke Gwozdz
Consumer behaviour & environmental influences
University of Lancaster, United Kingdom Garrath Williams Ethics, policy, and stakeholder engagement
Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden Staffan Mårild,
Lauren Lissner
Swedish cohort, family analysis
University of Helsinki, Finland Jaakko Kaprio Familial aggregation & genetic modelling
University of the Baleares Islands, Spain Andreu Palou,
Catalina Picó
Genomic analysis
University of Pécs, Hungary Dénes Molnár Hungarian cohort
Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, The Netherlands Roger Adan Neuroimaging & neuropsychology
Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus Michael Tornaritis Cypriot cohort
National Institute for Health Development, Estonia Toomas Veidebaum Estonian cohort
Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy Vittorio Krogh Dietary assessment methods
University of Bristol, United Kingdom Angie Page,
Ashley Cooper
Physical activity monitoring
Minerva PRC Ltd, United Kingdom Rhonda Smith,
Marc Catchpole
Dissemination and communication
University of Zaragoza, Spain Luis Moreno Spanish cohort
Ghent University, Belgium Stefaan De Henauw Belgian cohort


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