The researchers included Claire Zizza, PhD, RD, assistant professor in Auburn University's nutrition and food sciences department.
They note that while snacks may blow the calorie budget of younger adults, older adults tend to get fewer calories and may need snacks to make up their calorie deficit.
Zizza's team analyzed interviews from a 1999-2002 national health study that included about 2,000 U.S. adults aged 65 and older.
In the interviews, participants reported everything they had eaten during the previous 24 hours.
Most participants — 84% — were snackers. They typically snacked 2.5 times per day, taking in 150 calories per snacking session.
Snackers averaged 1,718 daily calories, compared with 1,466 daily calories
for people who didn't snack.
The study doesn't show exactly what the snackers ate, though snacks provided about a quarter of their daily carbohydrates and calories, 20% of their daily fat, and 14% of their daily protein.
Snacking apparently didn't ruin the participants' appetites. Snackers didn't cut back on calories at meal times, the study shows.
"Our results suggest snacking may ensure older adults consume diets
adequate in energy," Zizza's team writes.
Of course, nutritional quality counts. The researchers recommend promoting
the consumption of healthful snacks for older adults.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
© 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved