Leaning Tower of Doughnuts

Vaccines, Doughnuts, and Pandemic Weight Gain

After a year of this pandemic, the mashup of news can be jarring. Many people are focused on the vaccine as more and more people say they’re ready to step up and get their jab. For those who are reluctant, there are incentives. Wives and daughters are reportedly offering bribes and threats for certain reluctant men. Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnuts to patrons who get their vaccines. One a day for the rest of the year!

On top of news about vaccines and doughnuts, JAMA Network Open has a spoiler. Some people have been gaining about 1.5 pounds per month during lockdowns. Maybe those doughnuts can wait.

Objective Data from Bluetooth Scales

These data come from a prospective study of data from 269 subjects in the Health eHeart study using wireless scales. Researchers collected 7,444 weight measurements from February through June of last year. The average age in this study was 52 years. Participants were mostly White. So we note that these observations may not be representative of the general population.

But the results are striking. These are folks who were paying close attention to their health and weight before pandemic restrictions started. Many of them were losing weight, say the investigators. Senior author Gregory Marcus sees reason for concern in these results:

“We know that weight gain is a public health problem in the U.S. already, so anything making it worse is definitely concerning, and shelter-in-place orders are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected by this makes it extremely relevant.

“It’s reasonable to assume these individuals are more engaged with their health in general, and more disciplined and on top of things. That suggests we could be underestimating – that this is the tip of the iceberg.”

Food Marketers Doing Their Part

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the marketing whizzes at Krispy Kreme would pick this time to offer up free doughnuts. After all, selling ever more doughnuts is their job. Not public health. Even though they probably tell themselves they’re doing a good thing by promoting vaccination.

Except…the company says they know it’s a really personal decision to get vaccinated. So for those who choose not to get the vaccine, they’ll pass out free doughnuts too. The benefit is reduced. It’s one a week on Mondays, starting next week, only until May 24.

This is a good reminder. Food marketers are resourceful – always ready to help us reach for more to eat, on more occasions, with more appealing foods and beverages. It’s a key part of food systems that do such a good job of promoting obesity.

Click here for the study in JAMA Network Open, here for further reporting on it, and here for more on the free doughnuts.

Leaning Tower of Doughnuts, photograph © travel oriented / flickr

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March 25, 2021

One Response to “Vaccines, Doughnuts, and Pandemic Weight Gain”

  1. March 25, 2021 at 6:54 am, Mary-Jo said:

    The ingenuity, will, and tremendous creativity in offering and innovating new products and ways to get people to eat more calorific foods, to ‘normalize’ treat foods for daily consumption is stunning. It’s followed closely by all the energy and efforts put into defending how ‘normal’ easy purchase and possession of assault rifles is for Americans — that it’s a freedom and right. But the right to proper healthcare and efforts to help people with obesity get effective treatment is ever elusive and super difficult. Uh huh.