Unhealthy snacks can negatively impact blood sugar and body fat, even on an otherwise healthy diet, and increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
A recent study involving experts from King’s College London examined how the frequency, quality and timing of snack consumption affects cardiometabolic health. The results are published in the “European Journal of Nutrition”.
Snack consumption of over 859 people examined
The team analyzed the snack consumption of 854 participants. To do this, all snacks, i.e. foods or drinks consumed between main meals, were recorded over a period of two to four days.
The experts determined the average frequency and quality of snacks as well as the relationship between the frequency, quality and timing of snack consumption with cardiometabolic blood and anthropometric markers analyzed using so-called regression models.
It turned out that many participants did not balance the snacks they consumed with their healthy main meals, the team reports. This has negative effects on various aspects of health, for example blood sugar and fat levels.
Snacks are an important nutritional factor
The analysis showed that 95 percent of participants resorted to snacks and that snacks accounted for an average of 24 percent of their daily energy intake. On average, the participants consumed 2.28 snacks a day, with 47 percent of the participants consuming two snacks a day and 29 percent consuming more than two snacks a day, the researchers report.
Overall, 26 percent of participants said they ate healthy main meals, but also consumed snacks of inferior quality, which are associated with poorer markers of health. In addition, these people also reported a greater feeling of hunger.
Unhealthy snacks increase BMI and fat mass
Consumption of unhealthy snacks was associated with higher body mass index (BMI), higher visceral fat mass, and higher postprandial triglyceride concentrations – all factors that increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, among others. explains the team.
No snacks after 9pm
Another factor that can have a negative impact on snacks is the timing of the snacks. According to the experts, consuming snacks after 9 p.m. was associated with worse blood markers compared to all other times.
- These evening snacks promote weight problems and sleep disorders
- Snacking and losing weight: four healthy evening snacks
- Nutrition: 36 healthy snacks under 150 calories
Snacks should be healthy
Since almost a quarter of the calories consumed by 95 percent of people come from unhealthy snacks, swapping unhealthy snacks (e.g. cookies and chips) for healthy snacks (e.g. fruit and nuts) appears to be an effective way to improve health, emphasizes study author Dr . Sarah Berry in a press release.
This study confirms that food quality is the driving factor for positive health outcomes. “A balanced diet with fruit, vegetables, protein and legumes is the best way to improve our health,” adds study author Dr. Kate Bermingham.
Participants who frequently consumed high-quality snacks (such as nuts and fruit) were more likely to have a healthy body weight, compared to people who consumed unhealthy snacks or no snacks at all.
Additionally, consuming high-quality snacks also appears to contribute to better metabolic health and reduced hunger, the team adds. (as)