If snacking is the clue to obesity then what should be done?


The BBC has reported on new research that links the obesity epidemic to snacking and super sizing. Go figure. Few readers should really be surprised to learn that the reason 1.5 billion adults around the globe are morbidly wobbly is because we eat too much.

Flippant remarks aside, the study does present some interesting findings, particularly that over the last 30 years the average daily calorie intake in the US has increased by about a third. It’s no great feat to imagine this average is a fair reflection of a broader population. Australia is no stranger to the problem of obesity. But a third?! That’s a whopping amount of extra energy to be squeezed into our largely sedentary lives.

Commenting on the paper, and here I am quoting from the BBC’s article, Dr Áine O’Connor, a scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation said: "Many factors influence total energy intake that can lead to [being] overweight but it is possible that having more eating occasions through the day, for example by frequent snacking, would increase calorie consumption and so lead to weight gain.

"This study also looked at portion size and studies have shown that having larger portions of food leads to an increased intake.”

So, in summary, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, which has been caused by an increase in food intake, blamed, in part, on more regular eating occasions, larger portion sizes and higher calorie content.

A couple of obvious questions to ask,

  • “how has this happened?”
  • “how can the situation be reversed?”

Well, the results of study suggest there has been a cultural shift in our eating habits. We were all taught that three square meals a day constitutes a healthy diet, yet this home truth seems to have been lost along the way. A panicked hobbit once asked “What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn’t he?” Most of us would sympathise with the diminutive, hairy-footed fellow. We now fill our days with idle munching, chewing and slurping and our waistbands are starting to show it.

I am prepared to bet, perhaps a bag of assorted lollies, that most working environments have a steady supply of treats and snacks ready to tempt a busy worker throughout the day. Here, just a few tottering steps from my desk, we have a cornucopia of lurid, sugary animal shapes and I can’t get enough of them.

It would be interesting to know why snacking has become such a successful cultural pastime over the past 30 years. Maybe our working lives have become too busy for allotted meal times and so we compensate by incorporating more eating occasions throughout the day.

The snack and confectionery markets have certainly risen to the demand, but should food companies really be held accountable? If blame is to be dished out, should we allow the Government to step in and try to regulate the situation? Or should we as individuals just take more responsibility over what we eat?


Image courtesy of http://diabetesinsider.com