Retail food and drink trends

New research shows large swings in fruit and veg consumption during the pandemic

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Consumers’ fruit and veg consumption has fluctuated wildly due to the pandemic according to the latest research from King’s College London, in collaboration with health research organisation Zoe. A survey polled more than one million people in the UK and US and determined that there were large swings in fruit and veg consumption during the pandemic.

Responses were gathered on the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app before the pandemic in February 2020 and during it in July and September.

According to the findings, 33 per cent of participants increased their fruit and vegetable consumption (from 3.5 to 5.6 portions a day), compared to 23 per cent who decreased (from 5.6 to 3.8 portions a day).

“This increase in the number of portions [among a third of respondents] is really quite important,” said King’s co-lead researcher Dr Sarah Berry during a webinar on the research. “It’s enough in my opinion, and based on all the epidemiological evidence, to confer quite significant health benefits.”

Professor Christopher Gardner of Stanford Medical School commented that such a swing was unprecedented in the US where fruit and vegetable consumption has remained static for decades, at about half of the recommended daily intake.

Listen to the Table Talk Podcast with Dr. Sarah Berry, focused on how we need to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition

The study also found that two thirds of people experienced some level of diet and lifestyle disruption, with the greatest disruption seen in young females and those living in more deprived areas, and highlights issues around food security, with four times as many participants experiencing decreased access to food, compared to those for whom food access improved.

“This study shows the huge individual variability in how we have changed our diet and lifestyle behaviours during the pandemic,” said Berry.

“There is a perception that the disruption has had a negative impact on health behaviours and body weight, but our research shows that this is not the case for the majority of the UK and US population.

“In fact, the pandemic may have provided an impetus for many people to make changes to improve their diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

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