By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A charitable foundation working to improve research and treatment for eating disorders conducted a survey on the importance of family meals.

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About 2,000 adults across the country who have at least one child in their household were polled.

Most say they see the benefits of eating together, but 64% say they eat together every night.

Trish Carney is a registered dietitian at the Renfrew Center Foundation in Philadelphia. “Even though they are aware that there are benefits to eating together,” Carney said, “families find it really hard and challenging to find time with their busy schedules to come together to have these family meals. Very few families are eating meals together”.

In the Renfrew Center survey, 72% say they feel a stronger family bond when everyone eats together, with 48% also noting they feel a closer connection to their spouse or significant other.

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23% say they have discovered if a child was having a problem while during family meal time.

“If they are having eating issues you are going to notice those things,” Carney said. “Whether their appetite is changing, whether they are eating more or less, or if their attitude and behavior is changing towards the food and the way they eat the food.”

Carney says people who have eating disorders are much more likely to have success in recovery and treatment if the eating disorder is caught sooner than later.

“The more opportunities you have to eat together as a family, the more likely you are to notice those behaviors happing earlier on,” she said.

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