CHAPEL HILL - Today, young adults in the United States eat more snacks than they did in the 1970s, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes. A large increase in total energy from snacks, coupled with increased energy contained in those foods, undoubtedly contributes to the nation's obesity epidemic, researchers say.
The study, which involved responses to detailed surveys of 8,493 U.S. residents, appears in the April issue of the journal Preventive Medicine. Authors of the paper, all at the UNC schools of public health and medicine, are dietitian Claire Zizza, a doctoral student in nutrition; Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, assistant professor of nutrition and of maternal and child health; and Dr. Barry M. Popkin, professor of nutrition.
The two professors, also fellows at the UNC Carolina Population Center, released a different study in the Journal of Pediatrics April 6 showing U.S. adolescents also are eating between meals more often than in the past.
Information analyzed for the investigation came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 1977-78 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey and both the 1989-91 and 1994-96 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals. "In this study, we looked at 19- to 29-year-olds because people in that age group are going through transition -- leaving their parents' homes and becoming much more independent in choosing what and how they eat," Zizza said. "Studies of children and adolescents suggest a large increase in the role of snacking, but little was known before now about this behavior in young adults."
Researchers found that snacking prevalence -- the percentage of people who ate snacks during the survey -- increased in the young adult age group from 77 percent to 84 percent between 1977-78 and 1994. The nutritional contribution of that food to total daily energy intake climbed from 20 percent to 23 percent, chiefly because energy consumed per snacking occasion increased by 26 percent, and
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill