COVID-19 Lockdown Associated with Weight and Dietary Changes Among Adults with Obesity
You may have heard from your clients that the pandemic lockdown has resulted in individuals feeling challenged to manage their weight. The following analysis by a dietetic student looks at a related study in adults with obesity.
In an observational study, researchers evaluated changes in weight and dietary habits among outpatients of a Northern Italian Obesity Unit after one month of a COVID-19 enforced lockdown (1). The participants (n=150), who were enrolled in a 12-month weight loss program, completed a 12-question multiple choice questionnaire. They also self-reported their weight after one month of lockdown, which was compared to a measured weight from before the lockdown period. On average, weight and BMI increased significantly (P<0.05) by 1.51 kg (3.3 lbs) and 0.58 kg/m2, respectively, during the first month of lockdown. Self-reported anxiety/depression was the strongest predictor of weight gain among the participants. Lower physical activity, boredom/solitude, enhanced eating, unhealthy eating and a lower level of education were also significantly associated with increased weight and BMI. The authors suggested that the adverse mental health effects of quarantine could be a major factor in the lifestyle changes of the participants (1), citing Ryan et al. that individuals with obesity are more likely to experience social isolation and depression (2).
There are several reasons why this study’s findings are low quality. A validated questionnaire was not used for this study and data, including follow-up weight, was self-reported. In addition, due to the nature of the study design, causation about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on weight and nutritional changes cannot be inferred. Moreover, generalizability of the results is limited to European adults with obesity who were participating in weight-loss counselling.
This low quality data suggests that individuals with obesity experienced weight gain during the first month of COVID-19 lockdown (1). Also in this study, self-reported anxiety/depression, lower levels of education, lower levels of exercise, higher levels of boredom/solitude, increased food consumption and the consumption of “unhealthy” foods were associated with weight gain. Further research is needed before weight-related COVID-19 clinical practice recommendations can be made.
Written by Laura Michailidis, BA Candidate. Reviewed by Justine Horne, PhD, RD and Tanis Fenton, PhD, RD, FDC.
- Pellegrini M, Ponzo V, Rosato R, Scumaci E, Goitre I, Benso A, et al. Changes in weight and nutritional habits in adults with obesity during the “lockdown” period caused by the COVID-19 virus emergency. Nutrients. 2020 Jul;12(7):2016. doi.org/10.3390/nu12072016. Abstract available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32645970
- Ryan DH, Ravussin E, Heymsfield S. COVID 19 and the patient with obesity – the editors speak out. Obesity. 2020 Apr;28(5):847. doi.org/10.1002/oby.22808. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7228389