Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Snacks Are Responsible for Weight Gain

Three square meals and two snacks a day is no longer the norm for Americans and the story is probably similar for Britons as well. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina, US adults have cut down on the number of super-sized meals they eat, but instead, they’re eating more snacks. The net result is ever expanding waistlines.
Too tempting to resist!

The researchers examined surveys conducted over a 30-year period charting the daily eating habits of American adults. What stood out from the study was the increasing trend of snacking more often. In 1977, the average number of daily meals was 3.8. By 2006 that number had risen to 4.8. However, the top 10 percent of people in the study had increased their snacks from five to seven each day.

While meal portions have apparently stabilized, the total number of calories consumed has risen by 570 calories per day. Much of this increase could be put down to the rising consumption of soft drinks where Americans consume 220 more calories daily from soda than in the 1960s.

Researchers believe that contributory factors include the changing patterns of regular mealtimes and the wide availability of high calorie snacks are in part to blame. Britain should take note, because we have the tendency to follow the eating patterns of our neighbours over the pond. In the US, two thirds of adults and a third of children are overweight and in the UK, one in four adults and 10 percent of children are obese.

What many people don’t realize, is that while they may be cutting down on their portion sizes, they fail to take into account the number of calories in so called snacks. Many snacks are so high in calories they are worth a meal in themselves. This means people can end up eating the equivalent of four or five meals a day instead of three as recommended.

Continuously grazing throughout the day can be healthy. In fact, some diets recommend it as a way of keeping metabolism continuously revved up. However, to make that work, you need to make all your meals snack sized, and that means making breakfast, lunch and dinner much smaller. You can then spread out your meals over the day so you’re eating every couple of hours and should be less likely to overeat.

The results from this study were published in the June 2011 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.


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