13 October 2020

Breaking: food apps may not help us stay trim

The Back Page

Waistband feeling a little tight?

There are plenty of reasons why you or your patients may have gained a kilo or two this year, especially in Melbourne with its extended lockdown: disrupted routines, stress, working at home, closed gyms, closed restaurants, increased boozing … etc.

Researchers from Sydney and Auckland Universities have found another culprit for the dreaded COVID kilos: home delivery food services. In a study published in Nutrients, they evaluated the most popular outlets on one heavily celebrity-endorsed platform, using the Food Environment Score health rating.

A very ordinary 5.1% of the Sydney outlets scored in the healthy range – +5 to +10 on a total scale of -10 to +10 – and only 4.3% of the Auckland ones.

The team also rated the most popular food items as “core” or “discretionary” (e.g. sugar-sweetened beverages and hot chips), and found the vast majority in both cities to be the latter – 84.3% in Sydney and 88.2% in Auckland.

Shut, bru, thet’s worse then I uxpicted.

They found that 90% of the delivery distances were >1km, showing that online food delivery platforms were “disrupting traditional food environments by increasing the reach and accessibility of food outlets”.

The authors then really go out on a limb and suggest that the ease of getting food straight to your couch might be further promoting sedentary lifestyle behaviours.

The data was collected this year but not during lockdown, so any contribution that delivery apps have made to our collective weight problem is speculative. But the idea that regular digital diners have switched to salads during this challenging time is implausible to say the least.

The Back Page couldn’t help but be further depressed upon reading our Department of Health’s recommended forms of exercise to do at home, including:

  • weights training — if you don’t have any weights, make your own with filled water bottles, cans or jars
  • going up and down stairs
  • on-the-spot running, star jumps, sit ups and push ups
  • gardening
  • Zoom or Skype group lounge exercises with your friends

Thanks, DoH, for making a grim situation just that bit sadder.

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