As the world’s eating habits are changing, so are our waistlines. A hot topic in the field of obesity is whether frequent snacking can contribute to the obesity epidemic.
It has been suggested that the effect of snacking on body weight is most likely down to the size and type of snack. Many nutritionists urge people to snack; to eat little and often throughout the day to keep energy levels up. However, many people forget the nutritionist’s definition of snacking; to consume small portions of healthy foods or drinks between main meals. However, no matter what you choose to snack on, excluding celery of course, if you regularly snack on large portions you may exceed your body’s daily energy requirements, which in the long-term could contribute to weight gain.
Picture this: you’re at work… it’s 4 in the afternoon… your tummy is rumbling… you make your way down to the canteen… do you choose the apple or the chocolate? One problem may be that many of us do not plan our snacks and as a result choose snacks when already hungry. So by default, unless you have atypical self-control, you will opt for a palatable energy dense snack such as crisps or the chocolate bar (not to mention the frequent imbalance in the availability of healthy versus unhealthy foods is many workplaces). One could argue that these readily available, convenient, palatable modern day snacks contain “empty calories” – calories with little nutritional content. Therefore the body will still require additional nutrients that will be acquired from other food sources regardless of caloric content. Which may result in a daily calorie intake over what the body requires.
People often forget that every day beverages such as fizzy drinks can contain a vast amount of calories. Fruit juices and smoothies, which are advertised as being a healthy option, often contain sugar equal to or greater than fizzy drinks. Furthermore, it is controversial whether such energy dense drinks induce feelings of fullness comparable to a solid food with equivalent calories. Therefore it is possible that people could be exceeding their body’s daily energy requirements by consuming energy dense drinks.
All of these ideas suggest that frequent snacking could cause weight gain in the long-term. When you snack, you are essentially consuming calories in addition to meal calories, and if you consume more than your bodies required daily caloric intake you might expect to gain weight? Despite this, scientists have failed to show a positive relationship between frequent snacking and long-term weight gain. Why is this? There is evidence to suggest that the body responds to snacking by reducing calorie intake from other sources, for example the following meal. Nudge-it will investigate further into the body’s responses to snacking, focusing on how the consumption of snacks impacts eating behaviour at meal times and identify the mechanisms and brain regions involved in these compensatory responses.