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Study Shows Between-Meal Snacking Doesn't Reduce Eating at Mealtime

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A recent poster presented at the American Dietetic Association's annual meeting by researchers from the University of Memphis concluded that timing of food intake is unimportant when it comes to putting on weight. "Some say timing has an effect on fat storage and body weight. We found it does not," says Linda Clemens, EdD, RD, a professor at the school. Clemens questioned the "artificial environment" in which the study was conducted, as well as its small size, but calls the results interesting.

Wahida Karmelly, MSRD, an associate research scientist at Columbia University in New York, says that as a practicing dietician, she is less concerned with timing of food intake than amount. "Considering 50% of the adult population is overweight in this country, and obesity is rising in other parts of the world, we have to think of calories. People are losing sight of caloric intake," she says.

Karmelly says the study raises at least one important dietary issue: the concept of satiety -- a basic, but in some overeaters, elusive concept. Karmelly says she often asks clients to rate from zero to five how they feel hunger-wise before eating. "I have found people so often put in zero. They're not hungry. But it's time to eat." And so without thinking, that's just what they do.

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