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(59) of 764 snacks reported by 1560-year-olds during 7-day food recording, 54% were classified as 'sugars, preserves and confectionery'. Nutritionally, the snacks were higher in sugar and equivalent in fat content to lunch and dinners. There is little direct evidence to support the purported link between excess eating of snacks and obesity and Drummond et al. (60) reported an inverse association in men. In the latter study, when the types of snack foods were categorized as chocolate bars, biscuits, cakes, fruit, crisps, soft drinks and sandwiches, 61% reported eating chocolate bars and 73% reported eating crisps during the 7-day recording period. A comparison of those people who reported more or less than four eating occasions per day showed that 69% of both men and women in the frequent-eaters group consumed chocolate bars, whilst 57% of women and 48% of men in the infrequent-eaters group reported eating chocolate bars (Dr S. Drummond, personal communication). It has been suggested that the number of snacks eaten may be involved in the maintenance of obesity, rather than as a causative factor (17).
Chocolate has been found to contribute, on average, only 0.71.4% of total daily energy intake (57) but a far higher proportion of energy from all snacks: 18% of the total energy from snacks in 78-year-olds and 14% of total snack energy in female students in their twenties (S. Whybrow, personal communication based on data of Ruxton et al. (61) and Kirk et al. (62), respectively). Summerbell et al. (63) reported a lower value of 4% of total snack energy from chocolate in young adults; however, 'snacking' definitions differed, and may have included substantial 'suppers'. Savoury snacks (including potato crisps/corn chips) make up a greater proportion of snacks, have a similar energy density (~530 kcal/100 g) and nutritional composition to chocolate bars (58% energy fat, 38% energy carbohydrate and 4% energy protein) and yet their consumption is not widely perceived as causing obesity. This may be because crisps or chips are seldom viewed as 'addictive' and seldom craved to the same extent as chocolate.
Investigations of so-called chocolate addicts have revealed no particular tendency for such individuals to be obese. Indeed, in a preliminary study of chocolate addiction, the range of BMI in subjects was 16.441.0 with a mean of 25.3, suggesting a normal distribution of weight (64). However, when interviewed about their attitudes to chocolate, despite 84% providing positive descriptions of chocolate, 25% believed that chocolate was fattening and 14% described chocolate as 'unhealthy'. This demonstrates the ambiguity of chocolate's identity in consumers who eat chocolate to excess. In a further study of chocolate addicts, Macdiarmid and Hetherington (65) reported that consuming chocolate was accompanied by a significant increase in feelings of guilt. When chocolate addicts were classified according to whether or not they met criteria for binge eating
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