London: Love to munch on snacks in between your meals? Beware, late-night nibbles or snacking on highly processed foods could negatively affect health, according to a study.
Snacking is becoming increasingly popular, with more than 70 per cent 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, a postdoctoral fellow at King's College London.
"Timing is also important, with late-night snacking being unfavourable for health.
"Surprisingly little has been published on snacking, despite the fact that it accounts for 20-25 per cent of energy intake," Bermingham said.
In the study, 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 unfavourable blood glucose and lipid levels.
There was no association between snacking frequency, calories consumed, and food quantity with any of the health measures analysed.
"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.
The study was presented at the recent NUTRITION 2023, the annual flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held in Boston, US.