The journal of nutrition, health & aging

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 393–397 | Cite as

Snacking may improve physical function among older Americans

  • Beibei XuEmail author
  • G. P. Yu
  • C. A. Zizza
  • H. Liu
  • L. Zhao



Snacking was reported to provide nutritional benefits among older adults, but the association between such dietary behavior and health outcomes has not been clearly established. The purpose of this study is to examine the associations between snacking and gait speed, a performance-based measure of physical function.


Cross-sectional population-based survey.


The 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).


A nationally representative sample of Americans aged 60 and older n = 2,333).


Participants were classified by snacking frequency (0, 1, 2, 3, ≥4 snacks/d) and by the contribution of snacking to their daily energy intake (0 to <10%, 10% to <20%, 20% to <30%, ≥30%). Physical function was assessed by measurement of gait speed over 20 feet.


After adjusting for age, gender, education, race/ethnicity, smoking status, and marital status, older adults who snacked four times or more daily had a faster gait speed (P = 0.033) than non-snackers. Snacking that contributed 20% to <30% (P = 0.017) of energy was associated with a faster gait speed than snacking that contributed 0 to <10% of energy. Similar associations were observed after further adjustment for potential confounders.


Both snacking frequency and percentage of energy from snacking are positively associated with gait speed among older adults. The benefits of snacking on older adults’ physical function may warrant their inclusion in this population’s diet.

Key words

Dietary behavior gait speed older adults 


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Copyright information

© Serdi and Springer-Verlag France 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beibei Xu
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • G. P. Yu
    • 1
  • C. A. Zizza
    • 2
  • H. Liu
    • 1
  • L. Zhao
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Informatics CenterPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Nutrition, Dietetics, Hospitality ManagementAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  3. 3.Informatics CenterPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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