Objective: Because energy intakes decline with age, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of snacking on energy intakes and energy density in older adults.
Design: Twenty-four-hour dietary recall data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002 were used to compare the diets of snackers and nonsnackers.
Subjects: This study included 2,002 adults aged 65 years and older.
Statistical analysis performed: All statistical analyses accounted for the survey design and sample weights. Linear regression was used to estimate energy and energy-yielding nutrient intakes, eating occasions, energy intake per eating occasions, and energy density of eating occasions.
Results: The prevalence of snacking was high (84%) among this age group, and snackers had significantly higher daily intakes of energy, protein, carbohydrate, and total fat. Alcohol intakes were not significantly different. For those who snacked, it contributed almost a quarter of their energy and carbohydrate intakes and a fifth of their daily fat intakes. Snacking contributed 14% of their daily protein intakes. Snackers had, on average, two and a half snacking occasions per day, with each snacking occasion contributing 150 kcal. The average energy contribution of meals was not different between snackers and nonsnackers. The energy density of meals is significantly greater for snackers than for nonsnackers.
Conclusions: Results from this study demonstrate that snacking is an important dietary behavior among older adults. Whereas snacking may promote energy imbalance resulting in obesity among other age groups, our results suggest snacking may ensure older adults consume diets adequate in energy.