Consuming snacks and beverages between meals cannot be blamed for weight gain, say US researchers.
Their research revealed that snacks and beverage consumption between meals continue to increase among Americans, accounting for more than 25 percent of calorie intake each day.
Between 1977 and 2006, snacking in the American diet has grown to constitute 'a full eating event', or a fourth meal, averaging about 580 calories each day, said Richard D. Mattes, Ph.D., professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University.
While snacking has increased in general, "there has been a significant increase in the amount of calories consumed through beverages," he said.
In general, however, snacking is not linked with weight gain, according to G. Harvey Anderson, Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.
"The literature does not support the intuitive notion that increased consumption of snack foods is an independent cause of obesity," said Anderson.
In fact for some age groups - young children and older adults, for example - "foods consumed outside a meal are important sources of nutrients as well as energy."
The research has been presented at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo.