Written by Roni Caryn Rabin
Shortly after the pandemic began more than a year ago, Americans began joking about the terrible “quarantine 15,” worried they might gain weight while locked up in homes with food supplies, glued to computer screens, and Netflix watching excessive booze.
The concern is real, but assessing the extent of the problem is a challenge. Surveys that simply ask people about their weight are notoriously unreliable, and many medical visits were virtual.
Now a very small study using objective measures – weight measurements via smart scales connected to Bluetooth – suggests that adults on order to the shelter on site gained more than a pound every 10 days.
That means almost 2 kilograms a month, said Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, senior author of the research letter, published Monday in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open. Americans who continued their locking habits could easily gain 20 pounds during the year, he added.
“We know that weight gain is already a public health problem in the U.S., so anything that makes it worse is definitely worrying, and orders at shelters are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected makes it extremely relevant,” said Marcus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine with University of California, San Francisco.
Although almost impossible to generalize based on the study – which included less than 300 people scattered across the United States – all participants regularly monitored their weight.
The new study analyzed data from 269 participants who were included in the ongoing cardiology study, the Health eHeart Study. They reported reporting weight measurements from Bluetooth-related smart scales and weighed regularly. Researchers collected 7,444 weight measurements over four months, an average of 28 weight measurements from each participant.
Participants were from 37 states and the District of Columbia. The researchers analyzed weight measurements made between February 1, 2020 and June 1, 2020 to look at changes in weight both before and after issuing shelter orders in each state.
Although participants generally lost pounds before the order was issued, their weight steadily increased at a rate of about six tenths of a pound every 10 days after the order was issued, no matter where they were in the country and regardless of chronic medical conditions.