Science - March 23, 2010

Energy-rich snacks don't make you fat

Eating between meals does not necessarily make a person fat. That, at least, applies if you are young and slender. This surprising finding comes from a doctoral research project at the Human Nutrition Division.

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PhD candidate Mirre Viskaal-van Dongen and professor of sensory and food consumption behaviour Kees de Graaf carried out research into the effect on body weight from energy-rich snacks such as peanuts and candy bars, and from 'light' snacks such as fruits. They also noted the time of day when these snacks were eaten: between meals or during meals. The test persons were free to eat anything else they wanted. 'The common belief is that snacks make you fat', says de Graaf. 'Therefore, we had expected that energy-rich snacks eaten between meals would increase body weight.'
Compensate
However, the research results took de Graaf by surprise. There were no weight differences between test persons who ate energy-rich food and those who ate light food. According to de Graaf, this shows that the test persons compensate snacking by eating less of other kinds of food. He thinks, too, that the relatively low ages of the test persons - an average of 22 years old - have also affected the results. 'It would be interesting to repeat the test with older subjects or with persons who can become overweight easily', he concludes.

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