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How five meals a day can protect your kids from obesity

Want to help protect your kids from obesity? Get them to eat five meals a day.

Researchers in Finland set out to identify early risk factors for obesity, particularly when it comes to the relationship between meal frequency and obesity.

To do so, they tracked 4,000 study participants, with information gathered at the prenatal stage through to age 16.

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The study revealed that eating five regular meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks – reduced the risk of obesity for both boys and girls. This was even true of children with a genetic predisposition to obesity.

And even if you think you've heard this enough, it's worth saying again because it was shown to be true again: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Skipping it was associated with higher body mass index and wider waist circumference in study participants.

Researchers also found that maternal obesity before pregnancy, as well as maternal weight gain of more than seven kilograms (slightly more than 15 pounds) increased the risk of obesity in children.

"These findings emphasize the importance of taking an early whole-family approach to childhood obesity prevention. Furthermore, it is important to be aware that the effects of predisposing genotypes can be modified by lifestyle habits such as regular meal frequency," Anne Jaaskelainen, lead author of the study, said in a release.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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