Pandemic has taken toll on eating habits in urban areas: Study

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Tuesday, June 01, 2021, 11:35 PM IST
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the eating habits of those living in urban areas, revealed a recent study published in the latest edition of Nutrition and Health. It is a first-of-its-kind dietary study that was conducted in the metropolitan cities -Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The study highlighted that there was poor diversity of key food groups, such as pulses, vegetables and fruits, which can adversely influence nutritional status.

The sample size of the study was 450 households, of which 85 per cent belonged to the upper and upper middle class families. However, higher socioeconomic groups are considered to be health conscious. "The lockdown witnessed a number of changes. It also impacted the food supply chain. The aim of the study was to explore the diet diversity of urban households during the lockdown. The findings suggest that access and availability of food items remained largely unaffected in urban areas during the lockdown. However, majority of the households belonging to the upper and upper middle class reported poor diet diversity," said Dr Rita Patil, associate professor and head of the department of food and nutrition at Maniben Nanavati Women's College, who is also one of the co-authors of the study.

The specific research questions that were explored were: (a) did the lockdown affect the food access and availability? (b) was food availability associated with diet diversity? and (c) did the socioeconomic status (SES) of the household predict the diet diversity?

“For the study, 450 households from seven metropolitan cities -Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai- were included who were not under quarantine restrictions. We calculated the Food Variety Score (FVS) of the household depending on the commonly eaten foods that fell in nine groups -cereals and millets; pulses and legumes; nuts; milk and milk products; meat; vegetables; fruits; sugar; and fats,” added Dr Patil.

Dr Patil said the study also highlighted that the majority of households seemed to prefer processed cereal alternatives such as bread (77.1%) and breakfast cereals (62.2%) rather than millets and legumes. Moreover, the positive dietary change was that over 90% of the households reported daily intake of milk and two-thirds of households consumed curd daily.

“Poor diversity of key food groups such as pulses, vegetables and fruits can adversely influence nutritional status. Consumption of healthy diverse diets needs to be promoted more than ever before to enhance our nutritional status and immunity,” the study concluded.

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