Mid-Morning Snacking May Sabotage Weight-Loss Efforts


coffee and donut

Losing weight and keeping it off can be difficult. This is particularly true for those with busy schedules. Research suggest that between-meal snacking, something people on-the-go are especially prone to doing, may in fact be one of the major pitfalls that dieters face on the road to weight loss.

Abstaining From Snacks Improves Weight Loss

Medical Researchers with the Hutchinson Center for Aesthetic Medicine Public Health Sciences Division, located in Belfast, Maine, have found evidence that suggests women who abstain from mid-morning snacking can lose an average of 4 percent more body fat, over the course of a year, than their more indulgent peers.

Their conclusions are based on the analysis of data collected on 123 postmenopausal Seattle-area women, between the ages 50 and 75, who were either overweight or obese, and seeking to lose weight [1]. Each of them had been originally recruited to take part in a much larger nationwide investigation that was funded by the National Cancer Institute, and designed to examine the long term impact of diet and exercise on breast cancer risk.

Participants were randomly assigned to either a diet-only control intervention group, or a diet and exercise experimental intervention group. Participants in both groups were given dietary coaching and instructed to consume specific number of calories each day, but were not however given any explicit instructions with regards to snacking.

According to the results of the Hutchinson Center analysis, women from both groups who regularly snacked between breakfast and lunch, lost a combined average of seven percent total body fat over the course of one year. Women who did not snack lost an average of 11 percent total body fat over the same period of time. A “snack” was defined as any food or beverage with caloric value.

Snacking, However, May Only Be a Symptom

While these findings suggest that a connection between snacking and less effective weight loss efforts does exist, the exact reason why remains slightly less clear. Snacking can act as a double-edged sword with regard to losing weight. Many experts believe that, more often than not, weight gained from eating between meals is more of an indication of compulsive eating – that is to say, eating out of habit, boredom, or stress – and generally poor dietary choices, than a reflection on snacking itself.

Snack on Healthy Alternatives

Eating small portions of healthy foods, such as fresh fruit, or a handful of nuts, can be a great way to stay alert and ward off hunger between well spaced meals. It can also help to prevent binging when it’s time to sit down and really eat.

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- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Mid-morning snacking may sabotage weight-loss efforts. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2011 November 8.

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