Objective: To assess whether intake of snack foods was associated with weight change among children and adolescents.
Methods: Prospective study of 8,203 girls and 6,774 boys, 9-14 y of age in 1996, in an ongoing cohort study who completed at least two questionnaires between 1996 and 1999. Intake of snack foods was assessed in 1996-1998 with a validated food frequency questionnaire designed specifically for children and adolescents. The outcome measure was change in age- and gender-specific z-score of body mass index (BMI).
Results: Boys consumed more snack foods than girls during the entire study period. After controlling for Tanner stage of development, age, height change, activity, and inactivity, there was no relation between intake of snack foods and subsequent changes in BMI z-score among the boys (beta=-0.004), but snack foods had a weak inverse association (beta=-0.007, P<0.05) with weight change among the girls. However, the results were confounded by dieting status, which had a significant positive independent association with BMI change. After controlling for dieting status and whether the mother was overweight, the association between servings per day of snack foods and subsequent changes in BMI z-score were not significant in either gender.
Discussion: Our results suggest that although snack foods may have low nutritional value, they were not an important independent determinant of weight gain among children and adolescents.