Meanwhile, sales of alcohol from shops rose by 30 per cent – though it notes that this may have simply substituted for drinks normally bought in pubs or restaurants. And those of sweets were up by a fifth, with those of sweet baking ingredients up 22 per cent, the research found.

Prof Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, who peer-reviewed the findings, contained in PHE’s new report, suggested that the lockdown had divergent effects on different groups of people. 

She said: “Some people say actually I’ve managed to lose weight because I’m not out socialising, I’m not drinking so much and I’ve been going for a run – and other people have gone quite the other direction. 

“They’ve been two yards from the biscuit tin for the whole day, sitting at their desk not moving, and have gained weight, and it seems to me that the latter is more dominant.”

Prof Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine from the University of Glasgow, said it was possible that the pandemic – and increasing evidence about the impact of obesity on the seriousness of Covid – may frighten some people into making lifestyle changes now.

He said: “This pandemic has scared people. If this helps some people improve their lifestyle, make some small, sustainable changes in a positive direction, then I think that’s a good thing.”

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