Science - May 18, 2006

‘Snacks not big factor in overweight’

We are eating relatively less for breakfast, lunch and supper, but we are eating more snacks in-between. A popular theory suggests that this is why we are getting fatter. Appetite professor Kees de Graaf does not believe in it.

Snacking could in theory contribute to making us fatter, says De Graaf in an overview article in the journal Appetite. Studies show that the extra calories you consume in the form of a snack do not mean that you eat less at the next meal. This is certainly the case for soft drinks that are full of sugars. But humans have no sensory mechanism that tells them how many calories they are consuming.

Nevertheless, the link between overweight and snacks has never been proven. The Dutch have become fatter over the last fifteen years, but, according to data from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and TNO, the frequency of snacking has not increased.

Snacks are probably not such a terribly important factor in the ‘obesity epidemic’, says De Graaf. The professor suspects that the size of the average meal is a more important factor. All our meals and snacks contain more calories these days. / WK

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