A nationally representative study of more than 2,000 people over age 65 found snacking is an "important dietary behavior" among older adults that can help ensure they consume enough calories in their diets, according to researchers at Auburn University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Calorie consumption has been found to decrease as people get older -- by as much as 1,200 calories per day for men and 800 calories per day for women at age 70 compared to the consumption of 25-year-olds. Reasons for eating less include physical decline and illness, limited financial resources and social factors such as living alone. While some research has investigated meal patterns among older adults, less has been done on the role of snacks.
The researchers found 84 percent of the adults in the study ate snacks daily, with an average of about 2.5 snacks per day. Those who ate snacks consumed significantly higher amounts of calories, protein, carbohydrates and total fat than non-snackers. Snacks accounted for about one-quarter of all the snackers' daily calories, about one-fifth of their fat intake and 14 percent of their protein.
"This study shows snacking is an important dietary behavior, both in terms of the prevalence and the (calorie) contribution, among older adults," the researchers write. "Whereas snacking may promote (calorie) imbalance resulting in obesity among other age groups, our results suggest snacking may ensure older adults consume diets adequate in (calories).
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