Easy To Over Eat And Addictive, The Risks Of Ultra-Processed Snack Foods

Dr Sally Mackay, Registered Nutritionist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland,  School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown of 2020, there was an overall shift in New Zealander's eating habits towards unhealthy dietary patterns. A survey conducted by researchers from Auckland, Otago, and Massey Universities showed that there were increases in consumption across several categories, including sweet snacks (41 percent), salty snacks (33 percent), alcohol (33 percent) and sugary beverages (20 percent).

Registered nutritionist and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland at the School of Population Health in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Dr Sally Mackay, said that from the 3000 respondents of the survey, one in five adults reported they had less sweet or salty snacks. But, as seen globally, the popularity of home baking increased dramatically throughout the lockdown. Half of the respondents to the survey reported that they increased the number of baked goods they prepared from scratch.

More research and surveys have been conducted by various sources over the last few years, investigating the relationship consumers have with snacking and how this has shifted with changing economic, social, and political landscapes. The snack food market is anticipated to grow by 5.69 percent between 2023 to 2028, and the driving considerations consumers have when making snacking decisions are price and taste, with snacks becoming a source of comfort for many, particularly during times of hardship.

However, Mackay's research is centred on how ultra-processed foods, which many snacks can be, particularly sweet or salty comfort and nostalgic snacks, are easy to overeat. There has been emerging evidence that these types of snacks are addictive.

Poor diet is a leading cause of illness and early death in New Zealand,

"Poor diet is a leading cause of illness and early death in New Zealand," said Mackay.

Read the article in the e-magazine below, on page 10.