News Release

Is snacking bad for your health? It depends on what and when you eat

In-depth study suggests that late-night nibbles or snacking on highly processed foods could negatively affect health

Reports and Proceedings

American Society for Nutrition

Snacking is becoming increasingly popular, with more than 70% of people reporting they snack at least twice a day. In a new study involving more than 1,000 people, researchers examined whether snacking affects health and if the quality of snack foods matters.


“Our study showed that the quality of snacking is more important than the quantity or frequency of snacking, thus choosing high quality snacks over highly processed snacks is likely beneficial,” said Kate Bermingham, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at King's College London. “Timing is also important, with late night snacking being unfavorable for health.”


Bermingham will present the findings at NUTRITION 2023, the annual flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held July 22-25 in Boston.


The work is part of the ZOE PREDICT project, a group of large in-depth nutritional research studies designed to uncover how and why people respond differently to the same foods.


“Surprisingly little has been published on snacking, despite the fact that it accounts for 20-25% of energy intake,” said Bermingham. “PREDICT followed a large number of people and captured detailed information on their snacking behaviors, allowing this in-depth exploration of snacking on health.”


Using data from just over 1,000 people in the United Kingdom who participated in the ZOE PREDICT 1 study, the researchers examined the relationship between snacking quantity, quality, and timing with blood fats and insulin levels, which are both indicators of cardiometabolic health.


The analysis showed that snacking on higher quality foods — foods that contain significant amounts of nutrients relative to the calories they provide — was associated with better blood fat and insulin responses. The researchers also observed that late-evening snacking, which lengthens eating windows and shortens the overnight fasting period, was associated with unfavorable blood glucose and lipid levels. There was no association between snacking frequency, calories consumed, and food quantity with any of the health measures analyzed.


“We observed only weak relationships between snack quality and the remainder of the diet, which highlights snacking as an independent modifiable dietary feature that could be targeted to improve health,” said Bermingham.


Bermingham will present this research at 2:36 p.m. on Monday, July 24, during the Dietary Patterns and Health Outcomes Oral Session in the Sheraton Boston, Constitution B (abstract; presentation details).


Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2023 were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.


About NUTRITION 2023

NUTRITION 2023 is the flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and the premier educational event for nutritional professionals around the globe. NUTRITION brings together lab scientists, practicing clinicians, population health researchers, and community intervention investigators to identify solutions to today’s greatest nutrition challenges. Our audience also includes rising leaders in the field – undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. NUTRITION 2023 will be held July 22-25, 2023 in Boston. #Nutrition2023   


About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice, and education. Since 2018, the American Society of Nutrition has presented NUTRITION, the leading global annual meeting for nutrition professionals.


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