How Snacking Can Lead To Weight Gain
By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES
The biggest fight that America is faced with is not the budget or increasing the debt limit, it just happens to be health related. Obesity rates in the United States continue to increase, while no state had a decrease in obesity rates. Colorado is the only state that has an adult obesity rate of less than 20 percent. Most states have obesity rates that top out at over 25 percent.
Obesity is a big problem. Being overweight or obese can cause a host of chronic diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. In 1980, the national average for obesity was only 15 percent, and in 1991, there was not one state with an obesity rate over 20 percent. Today, there are four states that have obesity rates over 30 percent.
There are many different contributing factors that have helped cause this obesity crisis. Americans are ingesting an average of 300 more calories per day than 25 years ago. Also, our lifestyle has become more sedentary, even for trips shorter than 1 mile.
A reduction in weight by 10 percent has been shown to decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases, most importantly reducing the incidence of Type II Diabetes. There are seven states that have an adult population of 10 percent that have diabetes.
Snacking has become a bigger problem, not just because of the increase in portion size, but also due to the high-calorie, nutrient-dense products on the market today. The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over the years, so they are being replaced with less healthy options.
Television watching has also become a problem in the home, especially in the youth. Research done by Francis et al. demonstrated that excessive television watching and ingestion of high-calorie snacks might lead to increases in overweight or obese children.
They also found that the snacks that were consumed during this time had higher fat calories, or were higher in carbohydrates, which can lead to this weight gain. They also determined that in families with higher incidences of obesity, television watching can lead to excessive snacking and less physical activity, which may account for this increase.
Research done by Jahns et al. showed that nutrient value and the energy between snacks remained the same, but that the frequency of snacking increased, resulting in the increase of calories and energy from snacks. They also noted that snacking increased in all age groups during the course of the study.
In order to help curb the obesity epidemic that Americans are faced with, education on healthy snacking options, and making healthier options more accessible is extremely important. Replacing nutrient-dense, high-fat foods with healthier options may possibly reduce the energy consumed, which may lead to a decrease in weight in all age groups. Making healthier snacks more accessible will encourage healthy snacking patterns, especially in rural America where healthy snacks and grocery stores might not be readily accessible to everyone.
F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America. 2009 Issue Report. Trust For America’s Health and the Robert Wood Foundation.
Jahns, L. Siega-Riz, A. Popkin, B. The Increasing Prevalence of Snacking Among US Children from 1977 to1996. J Pediatrics. April 2001. Vol. 138(4) pp. 493-498.
Francis, L. Lee, Y. Birch, L. Parental Weight Status and Girl’s Television Viewing, Snacking and Body Mass Indexes. Obes. Res. 2003. January: 11(1): 143-151.