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COVID-19: Women more likely than men to gain weight during pandemic lockdowns, study suggests

Deeper analysis found the vast majority remained in the same BMI category before and after lockdown - but of those who were overweight, 11% gained weight while 12% lost weight.

Image:'Prolonged periods of lockdown disrupted daily routines' (File pic: March 2020)
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Women were more likely than men to gain weight during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

However, most people managed to stay the same weight or did not move into another category, according to their body mass index (BMI).

This came at a time when people were becoming more aware that those who were overweight were more likely to suffer severe COVID.

The research, on almost a million adults in the UK, used data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) of more than 200,000 GP practices, which included information on BMI just before lockdown in March 2020, and in the year afterwards.

Of 938,164 people included in the initial analysis, 32% were classed as a healthy weight before lockdown, while 35% were overweight and 33% were obese.

Of those who were obese, they were regarded as either class 1 (BMI of 30 to 35), class 2 (35 to 40) or class 3 (over 40).

Some 58% of those in the study were female and 83% were white.

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Deeper analysis of 273,529 people found that most (83% to 93%) remained in the same BMI category before and after lockdown.

Of those who were a healthy weight, 83% remained in the same BMI category post-lockdown, 14% became overweight or obese, and about 3% moved into the underweight category.

Of those who were overweight, 11% gained weight while 12% lost weight.

Meanwhile, of those who were obese, 9% lost weight and moved down to the overweight, normal or underweight categories, while 5% moved up at least one category.

Read more:
Obesity 'a major factor' in risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID - study
COVID-19 pandemic shines 'harsh light' on rising obesity in young people

The study found that more women than men gained weight. For example, in the overweight category, 13% of women versus 9% of men became obese.

Dr David Kloecker, who worked on the study, said: "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.

"Nevertheless, more research is needed to understand the reasons behind these changes in body weight and obesity levels."

The new research, by authors from institutions including the University of Leicester and Leicester General Hospital, will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht.