Pandemic leads to ‘significant’ increase in calorie consumption, research reveals

Around 90 per cent households have increased their calorie intake during the pandemic as they more than offset a drop in restaurant meals with takeaways and larger supermarket shops, a study suggests.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the pandemic led to a large and sustained increase in the intake of calories, which peaked at over 15 per cent above the normal level around May towards the end of the UK’s first national lockdown, and remained around 10 per cent above normal at the end of 2020.

Calories purchased from supermarkets and grocery stores were more than 10 per cent above normal levels throughout the pandemic.

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According to the report, people overall increased their calories from raw ingredients by more than those from ready-to-eat meals and snacks and treats, with the pandemic leading to a shift in the balance of calories towards foods that required home preparation.

The report said the most plausible explanation for the sustained increase over the pandemic was higher consumption rather than changes in household composition, food waste or stocking up.

IFS associate director and an author of the research, Kate Smith, said: “The huge changes in where people work, eat and socialise over the past year have led to a significant rise in calorie intake.

“Increases in food consumed at home more than offset drops in calories from eating out. 90 per cent of households increased their calorie intake, with the largest rises for the wealthiest households.”

IFS deputy research director and co-author of the research, Martin O’Connell added: “An important question for policymakers is whether higher calorie consumption persists as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Our findings point towards increased home working as a factor in driving higher calorie consumption.

“This could exacerbate the challenge of improving population diet and reducing obesity levels.”

with PA Wires

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