<p>Most people’s weight did not change during lockdown, study says</p>

Most people’s weight did not change during lockdown, study says

Women and young people were most likely to gain weight during pandemic, study suggests

Weight changes likely due to a decrease in physical activity and increase in emotional eating, experts say

Saman Javed
Thursday 05 May 2022 23:05
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Women were more likely to gain weight during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic than men, according to a new study.

In those who were considered overweight before the onset of the pandemic, 13 per cent of women became obese compared with nine per cent of men.

The research, which is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity in the Netherlands, analysed the BMIs of almost one million adults in the UK in March 2020 and the year that followed.

Experts at the University of Leicester and Leicester General Hospital found that while most people stayed around the same weight, those under the age of 45 were more likely to gain weight and move into a new weight “category”.

Of the 938,164 participants, 32 per cent were classed as a “healthy weight” before the first UK lockdown, based on their BMI. A further 35 per cent were “overweight” and 33 per cent were “obese”.

A deeper analysis of approximately 274,000 people found that 83 per cent of people who were a “healthy” weight before lockdown remained the same, while 14 per cent became overweight or obese. Around 3 per cent moved into the underweight category.

In those who were considered overweight in March 2020, 11 per cent gained weight while 12 per cent lost weight.

Among people in the obese category, nine per cent lost weight and five per cent gained weight.

“Prolonged periods of lockdown disrupted daily routines making it challenging for people to eat healthily and keep fit, with emotional eating and sports club closures likely intensifying the trend,” Dr David Kloecker of Leicester University said.

“Nevertheless, more research is needed to understand the reasons behind these changes in body weight and obesity levels.” There were also differences observed among age groups. In young people, 17 per cent of “overweight” adults gained weight and moved into the “obese category”, compared with 7 to 13 per cent of those in other age groups.

The study’s authors said people over the age of 75 were most likely to have lost weight during the first year of the pandemic.

Thomas Yates, who also worked on the research, said weight gain during the pandemic could result in an increase in health problems among the population.

“The implications of even modest weight gain at a population level in younger adults and women could translate into more diabetes, heart disease, cancers and other serious obesity-related health problems over the coming decades in these populations unless action is taken to reverse the effects of lockdown,” Yates commented.

Last year, a smaller scale survey of 5,000 adults in England found that more than 40 per cent gained weight during the pandemic, with 21 per cent putting on a stone or more.

In April, a new law requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways to display calories on their menus and websites came into effect.

The policy change was proposed last May as part of the government’s plan to tackle the so-called obesity epidemic and help people make healthier choices when dining out.

The move has received widespread criticism from eating disorder charities, which say calorie labelling causes distress and anxiety for people affected by eating disorders.

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