Healthy food considerations on World Diabetes Day

November 12, 2020 Cary Conway

Saturday, Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day, a day to call attention to the growing concerns around the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. This year, it should take on even greater significance given that those who suffer from this disease are at greater risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Given the role that diet and exercise play for those managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and obesity, the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded these issues as many have turned to comfort foods with limited movement while staying in place. In fact, globally our diets are worse off. A study earlier this year found food consumption and meal patterns were more unhealthy during confinement than compared to before. Participants were 10% more likely to have an unhealthy diet or food, 18% more likely to find themselves eating out of control, and 20% more likely to have a snack between meals or late at night.

Discovery Vitality’s Head Dietitian Terry Harris wanted to know just what Vitality members had been putting on their plates during the lockdown. Vitality analyzed data for about 320,000 Vitality members that participate in the Vitality HealthyFood program which offers cashback rewards for purchasing healthy foods. The study compared purchasing data from 2019 and 2020. Before lockdown baskets were deteriorating with 2% less healthy foods purchased in 2020 compared to 2019. However, during the lockdown period studied (April through June), members purchased 6.2% more healthy foods on average than they purchased during the same months in 2019.

While it is encouraging to see that members have increased their intake of healthy foods, we also saw an increase in sugary foods, unhealthy proteins and baking products. Our data shows that the potential net impact on BMI due to the changes in food purchases over the lockdown period among Vitality members on the HealthyFood program is negligible.

We are all aware of the importance of social distancing, regularly washing our hands properly and wearing a cloth mask when going out, but following a healthy diet and achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another crucial aspect that we can and should control during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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