Overeating and weight gain: Constant snacking increases obesity risk
05/12/2021 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
Overeating and weight gain: Constant snacking increases obesity risk

Enjoying the occasional midnight snack might not seem like such a big deal, but researchers warn that eating whatever you want whenever you want can spell trouble for your weight and well-being.

Overeating, obesity and health problems

From 1976 to 1980, only 15 percent of American adults were obese. In more recent years, the figure has skyrocketed to about 40 percent while another 33 percent are already overweight.

Health experts are concerned because this increase in weight comes alongside growing rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and health complications linked to obesity, like hypertension. Researchers also warn that Alzheimer’s disease may be connected to obesity and physical inactivity.

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Ali Guler, a professor of biology at the University of Virginia, explained that the typical American diet, along with diets in other countries, has changed dramatically in the last 50 years or so.” Now, highly processed foods are cheaper and more readily available, making it easier to have unhealthy snacks whenever you want.

Dopamine and unhealthy snacking

According to an animal study published in the journal Current Biology, it’s not enough that you consume snacks made with whole ingredients without added sugar and preservatives. Researchers also are also encouraging eating at designated times of the day to maintain your overall health.

In an animal study, researchers used mice to simulate the round-the-clock availability of a high-fat diet. Results showed that there’s a link between the dopamine-producing pleasure center of the brain and the biological clock of the body.

They also found that foods consumed for pleasure, which often contain a lot of calories, affect pre-established feeding schedules. This then results in overeating.

Researchers found that the group of “knockout” mice that had disrupted dopamine signaling didn’t look for pleasure-inducing foods, even when they had access to it all the time. The knockout mice consumed food according to the normal eating schedule and maintained a healthy weight.

The trouble with modern diets

The modern human diet is a double-edged sword. While fruits, veggies and whole grains are available for those who can afford them, those who prefer convenience or have a smaller budget may prefer to buy cheaper processed foods that are often full of calories.

Even common snacks like brownies, cookies or a can of soda are easy to over-consume. You won’t realize you’ve eaten more calories than you need because while some snacks are small, they contain the caloric equivalent of a full meal.

Most of the health problems that affect the population are made worse by controllable factors like obesity. These diseases then require “more medical care and higher health care costs for individuals, and society.”

Guler said that a “lights-on-all-the-time, eat-at-any-time lifestyle recasts eating patterns and affects how the body utilizes energy.” Poor eating habits also affect metabolism, as confirmed by the study findings.

An altered metabolism can result in obesity, which can then cause disease. Guler added that it’s crucial to improve your eating habits by choosing healthier snacks and eating at regular times.

“A calorie is not just a calorie. Calories consumed between meals or at odd hours become stored as fat, and that is the recipe for poor health,” concluded Guler.

Preventing obesity and overeating

Eating well doesn’t mean limiting your snack options. Following a balanced diet means controlling your portions and choosing healthier (but still tasty) alternatives to your favorite junk foods.

You don’t have to starve yourself or eat food that doesn’t taste good if you know which superfoods are good for you and how to prepare them well.

Follow the tips below to improve your eating habits and prevent obesity.

  • Practice portion control. Even if you’re eating healthy food like brown rice with veggies, you should try to consume enough calories to provide your body with the energy it needs throughout the day. If you’re eating something full of carbs like pasta, eat more fruits and veggies to consume fewer calories.
  • Eat more fruits, veggies and fiber-rich superfoods. According to a study, consuming at least 30 grams of fiber daily can help you maintain a healthy weight since fiber-rich foods “take longer to digest and may help to stabilize blood sugars.” This then helps you feel full longer. Not sure what to eat? Try fruits like apples, berries and pears and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Avoid processed snacks and limit your intake of food that contains sugar and refined flour. Junk food like chips, cookies and baked goods are low in fiber but full of refined carbs that can cause blood sugar spikes and leave you feeling hungry again even after you’ve already had a snack.
  • Stop drinking soda. If you think plain water is boring, try making healthier alternatives like lemonade with a bit of honey or fruit-infused water.
  • Cook more meals at home instead of dining out or ordering take-out. Cooking your own foods makes it easier to monitor what goes into each dish and you can use fresher, healthier ingredients for whatever you’re making for the whole family.
  • Exercise more. Being physically active is key to managing a healthy weight and maintaining your overall well-being.

The next time you’re tempted to eat junk food, look for recipes for healthier snacks and eat at regular times to prevent obesity and weight gain.

Sources:

OrganicFacts.net

ScienceDaily.com

LiveStrong.com

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