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HealthDay News reports on a new study appearing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggesting that if people eat dinner while watching television, it tends to negate the much-lauded positive effects of the family meal.

The argument is that while studies have shown that when families have meals together, it tends to result in children less involved with alcohol and drugs and maintaining better grades, those meals have to be served in an environment that promotes conversation and sharing. (The Food Marketing Institute has been working with the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University to develop programs promoting the family meal.)

Interestingly, the research also suggested that people actually don’t consume as much healthy food when eating in front of the TV, and that this problem is more pronounced in minority families and families where the adult has less than a high school education.

KC's View:
We’ve been making the point for years that the food industry ought to be making the family meal a centerpiece of all its promotional and marketing efforts, but it never occurred to us that not eating in front of the television had to be pointed out.

Oh, well.

It is amazing how much we learn and share at the dinner table each night. (We’re lucky…we have a family dinner virtually every night, and always have.) Just this week alone, we’ve talked with the kids about college (our son has decided to go to Ohio Wesleyan), health insurance (because of changes affecting out coverage), the Mets (always a hot topic), presidential politics, and Don Imus (which everybody seems to be talking about). We wouldn’t give up these exchanges for anything…they become the foundation upon which a family’s life is built. And the cultural move away from family dinners may be one of the most destructive trends that has occurred in the US over the past two or three decades.

(By the way…we’ve gotten multiple emails asking us if we plan to comment on the Imus situation, probably because we’ve mentioned in this space that we listen to his show almost every morning while working on MNB. We do so plan…but we are saving it for Friday’s “OffBeat.”)