AU researchers find the benefits of snacking in older adults

Claire Zizza
Claire Zizza
AUBURN – A study led by Auburn University’s Claire Zizza, a registered dietitian and nutrition researcher, showed how snacking can help older adults ensure they get enough calories and needed nutrients. The study was published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Low food intake in older adults, from appetite loss, medical condition or other reasons, can put them at risk of inadequate nutrition and unintended weight loss.

In the new study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that snacks were an important source of older adults’ daily calories and nutrients. And in general, snackers took in more calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat than non-snackers did.
Older adults who notice that they’ve lost weight, or that their appetite has waned, might want to add some snacks to their daily menu, said lead author Zizza.

She and her colleagues based their findings on data from a national health and nutrition survey that included 2,000 adults age 65 and older. Overall, 84 percent said that they snacked in addition to eating meals.

On average, snacks accounted for one-quarter of the study participants’ daily calories and carbohydrates, and 14 percent of their protein. Snackers ate about 250 calories more each day than non-snackers did.

That doesn’t mean that older adults should have a couple bowls of potato chips each day for the sake of their health, according to Zizza.

People should avoid “empty calories,” Zizza said, and instead choose healthful snacks like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, tuna and whole grains.

The research is from an article published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Authors included Claire Zizza, a registered dietitian and nutrition researcher, Francis Tayie, a nutrition researcher at Auburn University and Mark Lino, an economist with the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, USDA.

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Contact: Contact: Claire Zizza, (334) 844-4261 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (