Teenagers who sit down for regularly family meals are significantly less likely to develop eating disorders.

Scientists at the University of Illinois looked at 17 different studies - which included almost 200,000 children and teenagers. They discovered that children who eat five family meals a week are 35 times less likely to develop an eating disorder the study, published in the journal Pediatrics revealed.

They also found that children who ate just three family meals a week also benefited, and were 12 per cent less likely to be overweight than those children who didn't eat so often with their families.

Professor Barbara Fiese said: "The common belief is that teens don't want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family.

"Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens' health in significant ways."

Posted by Robert Mair on 14.7.11 Send your comments on this article to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com