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Changes in the diet in the NutriNet Brasil cohort under COVID-19




COVID-19, diet, ultra-processed food, NutriNet cohort, Brazil


Objective: To describe the characteristics of the diet of the NutriNet Brasil cohort participants immediately before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The data in this study come from an adult cohort created to prospectively investigate the relationship between food consumption and morbi-mortality from chronic non-communicable diseases in Brazil. For this study, we selected the first participants (n = 10,116) who answered twice a simplified questionnaire about their food consumption on the previous day, the first upon entering the study, between 26 January and 15 February 2020, and the second between May 10 and 19, 2020. The questionnaire asks about the consumption of healthy (vegetables, fruits and legumes) and unhealthy (ultra-processed foods) food markers. Comparisons of indicators based on the consumption of these markers before and during the pandemic are presented for the overall population and according to sex, age group, macroregion of residence and education. Chi-square and t-tests were used to compare proportions and means, respectively, adopting p <0.05 to identify significant differences.

Results: For the whole sample, a modest but statistically significant increase was found in the consumption of healthy food markers and stability in the consumption of unhealthy food markers. This favorable pattern of changes in diet with the pandemic was repeated in most sociodemographic strata. Less favorable pattern of changes, with a trend to increase the consumption of healthy and unhealthy food markers was observed in the Northeast and North macroregions and among people with less education, suggesting social inequalities in the response to the pandemic.

Conclusions: If confirmed, the trend of increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods in less economically developed regions and in people with less education is of concern, as consumption of these foods increases the risk of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, whose presence increases severity and lethality of COVID-19.


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