More Meals At Home Linked To Reduced Risk of Obesity and Diabetes Interview with:
Dr. Qi Sun Sc.D, M.D., M.M.S.
Dr. Geng Zong, Ph.D., a research fellow

Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Heath
Boston What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There is growing trend of eating meal prepared out of home in many countries. For example, energy intake from out-of-home meals has increased from less than 10% in mid 60s to over 30% in 2005-2008 among Americans, and average time spent on cooking has decreased by one third. In the meantime, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity of this country keep on growing. In the current study, we followed nearly 100 thousands middle-aged men and women for 26 years. In 1986, we asked people how often their lunch and dinner were prepared at home per week, which will be 14 meals in maximum, and updated this information during follow-up.

We found men and women with 11-14 meals prepared at home per week had 14% lower risk of diabetes compared to those had 6 or less meals prepared at home. If we look at lunch and dinner separately, people with 5 or more lunch prepared at home per week had 9% lower risk of diabetes, and those with 5 or more dinner prepared at home had 15% lower risk of diabetes compared to the group who had 2 or less than lunch or dinner at home per week.

We further investigated whether people with more meals prepared at home had lower risk of obesity or weight gain in our study. In the first eight years of follow-up, participants with 11-14 meals prepared at home had 14% lower risk of developing obesity compared to people had 0-6 meals prepared at home. For men, these people had 1.2kg less weight gain, and for women they had 0.3 kg less weight gain. Furthermore, we found potential impact of having meals at home and risk of diabetes became weaker. This suggest that weight gain could be one gearwheel that links eating meals prepared at home and diabetes risk. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Having more homemade meals, instead of eating put might help to prevent type 2 diabetes by limiting weight gain. Therefore, readers are encouraged to prepare meals at home more often, especially for family with kids. When you have to eat out, try not to choose fast food. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We are unable to differentiate whether meals prepared at home were made from raw/scratch materials or ready-to-eat meals, the latter of which may have poorer nutrient profiles than the former. In fact, unclear definition of MPAH/MPOH in existing literature has been a major limitation when interpreting related findings. As we have demonstrated in the paper, it will thus be useful if future studies could assess locations of meal preparation/consumption, ingredients/foods used, serving size, extent of food preparation for further understanding on how MPAH/MPOH influences human health. Our study only includes health professionals, and these findings needs to be replicated in other populations. As an observational study, our findings warrant confirmation by intervention studies. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Geng Zong, David M. Eisenberg, Frank B. Hu, Qi Sun. Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies. PLOS Medicine, 2016; 13 (7): e1002052 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002052

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on July 15, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD