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Snacking Before Lunch May Sabotage Your Diet

Study: Women Who Have Mid-Mornings Snacks Lose Less Weight
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 30, 2011 -- Women hear this: Grabbing a snack between breakfast and lunch may sabotage your weight loss efforts.

New research shows that older female dieters who have a mid-morning snack lose less weight than their counterparts who ate a healthy breakfast and don’t snack in the a.m. 

The new findings appear in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The study included 123 overweight-to-obese women aged 50 to 75. They ate a 1,200-2,000 calorie-per-day diet with less than 30% of calories coming from fat or a similar diet, combined with at least 45 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Nutritional counseling was part of the study, but did not address snacks and snacking. The findings are part of a larger study looking at how nutrition and exercise affects risk for breast cancer.

Mid-morning snackers lost 7% of their body weight over the course of one year. By contrast, dieters who ate a healthy breakfast but did not snack before lunch lost more than 11% of their body weight during the study. In the study, snacks were defined as any food or beverage consumed between meals.

"We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch," says study researcher Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD. She is the director of the Prevention Center at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division in Seattle. "Mid-morning snacking therefore might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits rather than eating to satisfy true hunger," she says in a news release.

Study Findings

Mid-morning snackers were found to be more likely to report snacking more than once a day compared to those who ate afternoon or late-evening snacks.

The study also revealed some other insights about snackers and snacking. For one, women who had more than two snacks per day ate more fiber than those who ate fewer snacks. What’s more, women who snacked more in the afternoon chose fruits and vegetables more often than women who did not snack between lunch and dinner.

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