Dubious study of parental role in children s eating habits

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A new study in the December issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims that parents play a minor role in the dietary habits of their children. The study was based on a meta-analysis of earlier research conducted around the world between 1980 and 2009. The researchers, who are at the Johns Hopkins-Bloomberg School of Public Health, maintain that parental influence is especially weak in the United States.

The study authors instead emphasize the role of “government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment that is influenced by food production, distribution and advertising.”

But ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan suggests that the report is chock-full of empty calories: “It’s counter-intuitive in the extreme,” she notes. “To say that parents don’t have much influence on what their children eat verges on the nonsensical.”

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross concurs. “This study has clearly flawed parameters. It looks suspiciously like a political diatribe masquerading as a public health investigation. The researchers appear to have taken a great many studies in many places from different time periods and tried to fit them together on behalf of a specific agenda, which is that government mandates should guide children’s diets rather than parental oversight. These researchers clearly had that conclusion in mind when they accumulated their data.”