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health

Americans love snacks. What does that mean for their health?

23 Comments
By CANDICE CHOI

Americans are addicted to snacks, and food experts are paying closer attention to what that might mean for health and obesity.

Eating habits in the U.S. have changed significantly in recent decades, and packaged bars, chips and sweets have spread into every corner of life. In the late 1970s, about 40 percent of American adults said they didn't have any snacks during the day. By 2007, that figure was just 10 percent.

To get a better handle on the implications of differing eating patterns, U.S. health officials are reviewing scientific research on how eating frequency affects health, including weight gain and obesity. The analysis is intended to gauge the broader spectrum of possibilities, including fasting. But snacking, grazing and "mini meals" are likely to be among the factors considered, given how they have upended the three-meals-a-day model.

Findings could potentially be reflected in the government's updated dietary guidelines next year, though any definitive recommendations are unlikely.

For public health officials, part of the challenge is that snacking is a broad term that can mean a 100-calorie apple or a 500-calorie Frappuccino. How people adjust what they eat the rest of the day also varies. Snacks may help reduce hunger and overeating at meals, but they can also just push up the total calories someone consumes.

While there's nothing wrong with snacks per se, they have become much more accessible. It also has become more socially acceptable to snack more places: at work meetings and while walking, driving or shopping for clothes.

"We live in a 24/7 food culture now," said Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center.

To encourage better choices as global obesity rates climb, public health officials have increasingly considered government interventions, including "junk food" taxes.

In Mexico, which has among the highest obesity rates in the world, special taxes on sugary drinks and other foods including some snacks and candies went into effect in 2014.

Last week, a study in the medical journal BMJ said taxing sugary snacks in the United Kingdom could have a bigger impact on obesity rates than a tax on sugary drinks that went into effect last year. While sugary drinks account for 2 percent of average calories in the United Kingdom, sugary snacks like cakes and cookies account for 12 percent, the study said.

Complicating matters, snack options are also continuing to broaden beyond the standard chips and cookies.

"Manufacturers have tried to tap into Americans' concern for health," said Paula Johnson, curator of food history at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Beyond nutrition, health officials should also consider what emotional or mental health benefits might be lost when people move away from meals, said Sophie Egan, who writes about American food culture. Meals can be a time for socially connectivity, she said, while snacks are usually eaten alone. She also noted the growth in snacking may be fueled by the stress of busier lives.

"Who knows how much food is a Band-Aid for those issues," Egan said.

For their part, food companies have moved to capitalize on Americans' love of snacks and stretched the definition of the word. Dunkin Donuts' former CEO has said the chain's sandwiches should be considered snacks, not lunch. When Hershey bought a meat jerky company, the candy company said it wanted to expand its offerings across the "snacking continuum " to include more nutritious options.

Health experts' recommendations on snacking vary. Children may need more snacks and to eat more frequently. For adults, many dietitians saying what works for one person might not for another.

Hunnes, the UCLA dietitian, recommends sticking to minimally processed options like fruit or nuts when snacking. But she acknowledged the advice could sound like it's coming from an ivory tower, given the prevalence of packaged snacks.

"They're just there, and they have a great shelf life," she said.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
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Zichi:

No sarcasm intended! I am honestly surprised.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WilliB

Zichi:

Well in that case your metabolism must be different from mine. So yeah, maye in your case you need to count calories. Looks like we are all different.

No need for sarcasm when I answered you questions. I probably gave up added sugar long before you did.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Zichi:

Well in that case your metabolism must be different from mine. So yeah, maye in your case you need to count calories. Looks like we are all different.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WilliB

Zichi:

Are you drinking juice?

No!

Eating white sponge bread?

No! I bake my own bread

Packaged things like so-called fruit yoghurt?

No! We make plain homemade yoghurt and eat it like that. Like Greek yoghurt. Rarely buy any package foods which for me goes back decades. Tin of Italian tomatoes.

Protein bars? Cereals?

Nope, never!

In fact anything that comes boxes with funky colours and lasts forever? Then you are eating candy. In that case, stop it.

Nope never and in addition I haven't directly used sugar for decades. I don't add it to my food or drinks. We try to avoid sugar in foods. We read labels. My wife suffers from bad hives so we have to be very careful what we buy and eat. 98% fresh foods.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Zichi:

Are you drinking juice? Eating white sponge bread? Packaged things like so-called fruit yoghurt? Protein bars? Cereals? In fact anything that comes boxes with funky colours and lasts forever? Then you are eating candy. In that case, stop it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reckless

yes thank you but its more like 20 pounds (10kg) to remove the belly fat for the knife. Walking is my current exercise.

But regardless of my health I think snacking is not good and I have avoided that except decades ago when I was stoned and enjoyed the munchies.

Never ate any of those products in the post photo.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@zichi, yes that is a good ideal especially as we get older. In high school I wrestled and could lose 5 pounds in a day to make weight by jogging in garbage bags to sweat and chewing gum and spitting out saliva and puking up after eating. Bulimia does work to lose weight and you can still eat. So if you need to lose 10 pounds I think mentally an intensive one week fast would be easier.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Reckless

I think starvation diets don't work. 

Hara hachi bun me (腹八分目, or hara hachi bu,) is a Confucian teaching that instructs people to eat until they are 80 percent full. Roughly, in English the Japanese phrase translates to, “Eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full” or “belly 80 percent full”.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

WilliB

Did you miss the bit where I said I need to lose weight at least 10 kg because very soon I will have an operation that requires it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi:

My daily calorie intake is limited to 1500-2000.

Stop this nonsensical calorie counting. Just eat food instead of processed crap, and you will get healthy. If your natural body condition is a bit on the heavy side, that is no problem as long as you are healthy. We are individuals, not statistics.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Zichi good luck. I think starvation diets don't work. Try some low impact fun exercise such as swimming or s-x.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My daily calorie intake is limited to 1500-2000. Since April my average is 1200 calories. The amount to maintain my weight would be 2600. I've only reduced my weight about 3 kg so far. The target is 10 kg because probably I will be have an operation soon.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I am the same weight as in college and drink beer regularly. Beer will keep you trim.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

If it's processed, I won't eat it. Fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat are all that pass through my gullet. (Well, those and a lot of beer.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rare reason:

Breakfast-lunch for me is 1pm

Dinner 8pm

That's it.

My longest time without ea

Breakfast for me when I wake up.

Lunch when I want it.

Dinner when I want it.

In between whenever I want it, and how much I want.

No early morning or any other runs, no other exercise than the normal things I did before stopping to eat sugar & related garbage.

No calorie counting, no app, no worry about nutritian this and nutritian that. All I did was elimiate the sugar and artificial crap foisted on us by the food industry.

Lost all excessive weight and all little previous health problems.

Just Fwiw. Worth a try?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I use an app on my iPhone called FatSecret which is free and I record everything I eat which gives me the calorie breakdowns plus all the nutrients and other useful info. Been using it for 6 months.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Breakfast-lunch for me is 1pm

Dinner 8pm

That's it.

My longest time without ea

Gosh you're so amazing

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japanese people also love snacks, if not, then why is there a huge snacks section in every conbini or 100円 shop i've been to; the 7-11 even have their own snacks.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Breakfast-lunch for me is 1pm

Dinner 8pm

That's it.

My longest time without eating is then 13 hours. 9pm-1pm next day.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Many humans have forgotten that it's OK to be hungry sometimes. Waiting an hour or two until your next meal, rather than try to sate your hunger with junk, is OK.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I don't snack between meals.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

People all over the world love their snacks, lol.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Look at 'em. Whadda ya think it means?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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