Study looking at Irish diets during Covid-19 publishes first results

21 Aug 2020456 Views

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A national Covid-19 study looking at how our eating habits changed showed a polarity between weight gain and a fear of malnutrition.

Findings from the National Covid-19 Food Study suggest there was a major impact on people’s diets during movement restrictions as a result of Covid-19.

The study, published today (21 August), was conducted by the Institute of Food and Health at University College Dublin (UCD) in collaboration with Dublin City University (DCU).

The online survey included results from more than 4,000 people, of which 45pc were from Dublin. A noticeable limitation of the study was that, of those who responded, 82pc were women.

The findings showed that half of respondents reported no change in their eating behaviour, followed by 40pc eating more than usual and 10pc eating less. 42pc said they were eating more snacks over the course of the pandemic, particularly those aged between 25 and 44, while 43pc reported no change and 15pc reported a lower intake.

Takeaway consumption also reduced, according to the respondents, with 64pc saying they were eating less fast food compared with before Covid-19.

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44pc said their weight had stayed the same, while 30pc said it had increased and 15pc said it had decreased.

Food security

The authors of the study said they were concerned with figures showing that 20pc of respondents said they feared not having enough food during restrictions. About 10pc said they were eating food that they didn’t want due to a lack of food availability.

Food insecurity was raised during interviews the researchers had with community and advocacy groups. These groups reported a significant impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable communities with some families struggling to feed their families as a result of the closure of schools where they would have received meals.

‘Vulnerable groups like refugees, low-income earners or those impacted by addiction or living with a disability had real challenges affording food with the extra hidden costs of lockdown’
– DR SHARLEEN O’REILLY

“One in five people taking the survey worried about having enough food,” said Dr Sharleen O’Reilly, assistant professor in nutrition at UCD.

“Vulnerable groups like refugees, low-income earners or those impacted by addiction or living with a disability had real challenges affording food with the extra hidden costs of lockdown. Higher household bills, loss of income and eating more family meals at home all added to the stress of living life at home 24/7.”

Dr Claire Timon of DCU added: “In some instances families who had never sought help for food provision before were seeking this support. We are hopeful that these insights and the findings from the overall survey will help us better protect our communities now and into the future.”

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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