'Snacks not cause of obesity in children'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The booming industry in chocolate bars and crisps, often blamed for the rise in childhood obesity, is not in fact responsible for weight gain in children, according to research by scientists at Harvard University.

The booming industry in chocolate bars and crisps, often blamed for the rise in childhood obesity, is not in fact responsible for weight gain in children, according to research by scientists at Harvard University.

In the past20 years the number of overweight children in this country has more than doubled and it is now estimated that 15 per cent are overweight or obese. At the same time, the number of snacks available to children has increased, leading to claims that calories from sugary foods are at least partly responsible for weight problems.

The new findings, though, cast doubt on the theory. "Our data did not offer support for the hypothesis that snacking promotes weight gain. We did not observe any consistent evidence that intake of snack foods promoted weight gain relative to height gain," say the researchers, writing in the International Journal of Obesity.

They had monitored the snacking habits of 16,000 children aged nine to 14 for three years, recording data on diet, physical activity, and weight and height. The weight and height of mothers were also measured and this proved to be a much stronger indicator of likely weight gain - with overweight mothers producing overweight children.

Overall, calories from snack foods accounted for almost one-fifth of the total intake, yet there was no significant link between snack food and weight gain, even when sugary drinks were included.

For example, girls eating more than five servings of snacks or drinks a day did not have larger changes in body mass index (BMI) than girls in the study who ate less than one snack food or drink a day.

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