- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 27, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala.

Jo Spann used to be a steak-and-potatoes, three-squares-a-day type, but as the years have gone by, the 72-year-old from Daleville now finds herself snacking “all the time” while usually eating just one large meal each day.

Researchers say such snacking is OK — in fact, regularly nibbling between meals can be quite good for seniors.

An Auburn University study that compared the diets of 2,002 adults aged 65 years and older found that snacking provides significantly higher amounts of energy, protein, carbohydrate and total fat, potentially vital boosters during years when the daily intake of calories is often in decline.

So while snacking could lead to obesity in younger age groups, it could ensure that seniors are consuming enough calories, said Claire Zizza, an assistant professor of nutrition at Auburn and lead author of the study, which is published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

She said several factors, including health problems, medication and changes in taste could lead to diminished appetites and unintentional weight loss in seniors. When compared to 25-year-olds, 70-year-old men ate 1,000 to 1,200 fewer calories and the decline for women was 600 to 800 calories per day, according to the study.

But it found that 84 percent of the adults averaged 2.5 daily snacks and that snackers consumed about 250 more calories than non-snackers — 1,717.9 calories to non-snackers’ 1,466 calories.

Jean Lloyd, national nutritionist for the U.S. Administration on Aging, said the study “does a couple of real important things” by indicating that healthy eating can be reached through various paths and providing guidance to health professionals.

“If you’re a clinician or dietitian, you can suggest with confidence that having a small snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon is a good behavior,” she said.

Lynelle Bumgardner, who directs the Daleville Senior Center in southeast Alabama, said a hot lunch is served there five days a week. She often sees patrons eating cookies, crackers and fruit before and after the noontime meal. Some even save the bread, cookies or juice from their lunches to eat later and load up on the snacks offered by the center to take home and share with elderly spouses, she said.

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