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Unhealthy snacking is bad for heart health: Study

The results of the study found that unhealthy snacks can raise risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease

Eating unhealthy snacks can nullify the positive effects of healthy meals
Eating unhealthy snacks can nullify the positive effects of healthy meals (Unsplash/Liv Hema)

Researchers from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences and health science company ZOE, today published results of findings from the ZOE PREDICT project, which studied the snacking behaviours of 854 participants. The key findings, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, state that with unhealthy snacks, 25 per cent of people nullify the positive effects of healthy meals, increasing their risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. And just half of the participants matched the nutritional value of their meals and snacks. This disparity has a detrimental impact on health indicators like blood sugar and fat levels. Addressing it may be as simple as changing one's diet, the study found.

Dr Sarah Berry from King’s College London and chief scientist at ZOE said, “Considering 95 per cent of us snack, and that nearly a quarter of our calories come from snacks, swapping unhealthy snacks such as cookies, crisps and cakes to healthy snacks like fruit and nuts is a really simple way to improve your health.”

Also read: How diet and regular soda could increase insulin levels

Contrary to what is often believed, the analysis demonstrated that snacking is not harmful as long as the snacks are nutritious. Compared to those who don't snack at all or who nibble on harmful foods, people who frequently eat high-quality snacks like nuts and fresh fruits are more likely to have a healthy weight. Analysis revealed that high-quality snacks can help improve metabolic health and reduce appetite.

However, a quarter of the individuals claimed to consume unhealthy snacks in addition to healthy main meals. Poor-quality snacks, such as heavily processed foods and sweets, made people feel hungry and were linked to worse health markers.

Unhealthy snacks have been connected to higher BMI, visceral fat mass, and postprandial triglyceride concentrations, all of which are linked to metabolic diseases like obesity, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Your health may also depend on when you eat your snacks. Research has shown that snacking after 9 pm was linked to blood indicators that were worse than at any other time. Snacks at this time typically consisted of calorie-dense, high-fat and sugar items.

Dr Kate Bermingham from King’s College London and senior scientist at ZOE said, “This study contributes to the existing literature that food quality is the driving factor in positive health outcomes from food. Making sure we eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, protein and legumes is the best way to improve your health.”

Also read: Reasons why you must junk that junk food from your kid's plate

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