A recent study indicates that frequent snacking may not be
related to obesity. But before you pounce on the nearest chocolate cake, please
wait! The results of this study may only be relevant to children with a good
social network and with high physical activity.
Children are often influenced by their environment.
The environment does not restrict to only the immediate family but also extends
to friends and the social network of the child. Thus, eating behaviors of
children are influenced by those of companions at school or friends outside
Frequent snacking could be one of the factors
contributing to the development of obesity. A child who gets more than 15 to 20 percent of the total energy intake
from snacks is referred to as a 'snacker'. Children sitting glued to the
television often end up munching between meals. Snacks may not be good for the
body since they are usually high in sugar and fats.
Snacking, however, is also associated with social
behavior. People tend to snack when they go out to meet other people. In a
child, the social interaction not only results in excessive snacking, but the
child tends to be more physically active during these interactions. This could
negate the possible effects of snacking in causing obesity in children.
A study conducted in Italy confirmed this finding. A
total of 1215 children between the ages of 6 and 10 years were included in the
study, among which 608 were snackers and 607 children were no-snackers.
Information about the children's behavior regarding
snacking and physical activity, the children's social network, basic
socio-demographic features and physical characteristics of the family was
collected from mothers of the children based on a telephonic interview.
Snackers in the study included those children who
had at least 3 or more of the following foods per day: filled cakes/ sweet
snacks, plain cakes/sweet snacks, chocolate snacks, sodas (no sugar-free) in
can or bottle.
found that no-snackers had actually a more sedentary lifestyle. Snacking
children were found to be more active, with at least 4 hours of physical
activity per day. Children who indulged in snacking appeared to come from joint
families, whereas no-snackers came from nuclear families. It is possible that
in small nuclear families, the parents pay more attention and control the
unhealthy eating habits of their children.
The study also
found that though snackers enjoyed high-calorie foods, they did not seem to be
at a risk for developing obesity. This is possibly due to the increased time
spent in physical activity with the children's social network.
Thus, frequent snacking may not lead to obesity in
children with a good social network and high physical activity.
1. Gregori D, Foltran F, Ghidina M, Zobec F, Ballali S, Franchin L and
Berchialla P. The "Snacking Child" and its social network: some insights from
an Italian survey. Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:132