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Study highlights how COVID-19 altered what we consumed.

Studies being presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE bring new insights into how people ate, shopped and felt about food as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Studying these trends can shed light on potential lingering health impacts of the pandemic and inform responses to future emergencies. Here are four highlights:

Many adults consumed more unhealthy foods and sugary drinks during the pandemic

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using a survey of nearly 4,000 U.S. adults conducted in June 2020 found that a sizeable portion of Americans increased their consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts and sugary drinks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen percent of respondents reported they often/always consumed more unhealthy snacks and desserts since the pandemic and 36% of respondents reported sometimes doing so. Ten percent of respondents reported often/always consuming more sugary beverages and 22% said they sometimes did. Respondents reporting the greatest increase in consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts or sugary drinks were more likely to be younger than age 65, identify as Black, have lower income and have obesity. Women were significantly more likely than men to report often/always consuming more unhealthy snacks or desserts. Researchers say the findings could help inform strategies to reduce added sugar intake among U.S. adults going forward.

Sohyun Park will present this research in an on-demand session during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE from noon on Monday, June 7 through 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 (abstractpresentation details).


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New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sheds light on Americans’ food worries during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. adults conducted in June 2020, nearly 6 in 10 respondents reported concerns about food availability (such as not being able to find food at nearby stores) or safety (such as a fear of catching COVID-19 from food). These worries were reported significantly more frequently among respondents who were lower-income, unemployed, non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic. Researchers note that although the risk of contracting COVID-19 from food is low and U.S. retailers reported few major, sustained disruptions in the food supply, worry about food availability and safety during the pandemic could be related to temporary food shortages experienced early in the pandemic, emerging food safety and COVID-19 information, and news coverage. The findings highlight the importance of effectively communicating about the safety and availability of food during emergencies, as well as ensuring continued access to hunger relief programs and community services, in order to reduce fears and prevent risky behaviors such as panic buying or bleaching food, according to researchers.

Brianna Dumas will present this research in an on-demand session during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE from noon on Monday, June 7 through 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 (abstractpresentation details).

Survey reveals demographic trends behind high rates of online grocery shopping

Preliminary results from a nationally representative survey of more than 18,000 U.S. households conducted in July-August 2020 reveal that many households had shopped for groceries online and planned to continue doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty percent of respondents stated they had shopped online for groceries (beverages and canned, fresh or frozen foods) in the past and, of these respondents, 90% stated they planned to purchase groceries online in the next month. The survey also revealed key demographic differences in reported online shopping behaviors. Respondents who were female, younger than 39 years, had greater than a college education and had a higher income were more likely to report prior online grocery shopping than respondents who were male, older than 40 years, had some college education or less, or had a lower income. Households with children and respondents that reported food insecurity were also more likely to report prior online grocery shopping. The survey was administered to a subset of Nielsen Homescan panel participants in its COVID-19 Shopper Behavior Surveys and analyzed by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Nielsen had no role in performing the analysis.

Amy Lo will present this research in an on-demand session during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE from noon on Monday, June 7 through 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 (abstractpresentation details). Presentation includes additional data analyzed after the original abstract was submitted.

Stringent COVID-19 restrictions linked with higher food prices

Consumers saw higher food prices in countries that imposed the most stringent restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Scientists examined data on food prices, prices for all consumer goods and restrictions on movement such as school closures and stay-at-home measures in 133 countries from 2017 (before the pandemic) through November 2020 (approximately 10 months into the pandemic). After accounting for the severity of the pandemic in each country and month, the results reveal that more stringent restrictions were linked with a higher price of food and a higher ratio of food prices to prices across all consumer goods. Stringent restrictions were not associated with price increases for all consumer goods. The findings suggest governments should consider food assistance or other measures to ensure food access when imposing restrictions that may drive food prices higher, researchers said.

Jessica Wallingford will present this research in an on-demand session during NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE from noon on Monday, June 7 through 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 (abstractpresentation details).


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