Journal of Medical and Surgical
Research (JMSR)


Pages: 1098-1104DOI: 10.46327/msrjg.1.000000000000223

Date of Publication: 30-Nov--0001

Food Delivery Applications and Obesity: Lessons Learned from COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia

Author: Noara Alhusseini , Duaa Alammari, Belal Nedal Sabbah , Alaa Ahmed Almubayedh, Tarek Arabi, Hareem Rashid Mahmood, Nour Basem Odeh, Majed Ramadan

Category: JMSR Public Health

[Download PDF]


Introduction: Obesity is a global pandemic and has been associated with poor dietary habits and decreased physical activity. It has been linked to various chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Food delivery applications have seen a surge in the last ten years, their usage becoming more common throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While these applications have many advantages and disadvantages, they are expected to contribute to the increasing obesity rates in Saudi Arabia in the upcoming years. The purpose of the study is to assess the use of food delivery applications in Saudi Arabia. Methods: This study is a cross-sectional study using a convenience sampling technique. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, social media platforms were used to distribute the survey from August 21, 2021, until September 19, 2021. A repeated logistic regression model was used to compare food delivery factors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. All analyses were performed using SAS 9.4 with a two-sided p-value (__ampersandsignalpha; =0.05). Results: A total of 954 respondents completed the survey. The respondents predominantly reported using online applications for delivery (86.97%), for accessibility convenience and speed (80.08%), and favorably for dinner meals (61.11%). Almost half of the respondents reported an inability to control food cravings (45.49%). Furthermore, 42.14% of the respondents reported an increase in weight of up to five kg during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a significant difference pre and during the pandemic among the use of the food delivery applications per number of use weekly, amount spent, and food choices. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that food delivery applications are commonly used in Saudi Arabia, specifically with a high prevalence of use among young Saudi residents. Yet, no interventions are proposed to reduce the purchase of highly processed food on these applications. Public health officials and healthcare providers are highly encouraged to increase awareness on obesity and healthy dietary choices to limit the ongoing obesity pandemic.

Keywords: Food delivery applications, obesity, diet, covid-19, Saudi Arabia, Online delivery


1. Lu R, Zhao X, Li J, Niu P, Yang B, Wu H, et al. Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. Lancet. 2020;395(10224):565-74.

2. WHO. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): WHO 2020 [cited 2020. Available from:

3. Mumena W. Impact of COVID-19 Curfew on Eating Habits, Eating Frequency, and Weight According to Food Security Status in Saudi Arabia: A Retrospective Study. Prog Nutr. 2021;22:e2020075.

4. Alhusseini N, Alqahtani A. COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on eating habits in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Public Health Research. 2020;9(3).

5. Althumiri NA, Basyouni MH, AlMousa N, AlJuwaysim MF, Almubark RA, BinDhim NF, et al., editors. Obesity in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Prevalence, Distribution, and Its Current Association with Various Health Conditions. Healthcare; 2021: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

6. Alfaris N. Management of obesity in Saudi Arabia during the era of COVID?19: A clash of two pandemics. Obesity. 2021;29(1):18-.

7. AlTamimi AA, Albawardi NM, AlMarzooqi MA, Aljubairi M, Al-Hazzaa HM. Lifestyle Behaviors and Socio-Demographic Factors Associated with Overweight or Obesity Among Saudi Females Attending Fitness Centers. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2020;13:2613.

8. Tremmel M, Gerdtham U-G, Nilsson PM, Saha S. Economic burden of obesity: a systematic literature review. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017;14(4):435.

9. Stephens J, Miller H, Militello L. Food delivery apps and the negative health impacts for Americans. Frontiers in nutrition. 2020;7:14.

10. 10. Muangmee C, Kot S, Meekaewkunchorn N, Kassakorn N, Khalid B. Factors Determining the Behavioral Intention of Using Food Delivery Apps during COVID-19 Pandemics. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research. 2021;16(5):1297-310.

11. Asfoura E, Aljuraywi N, Alhajjaj A, Alzahed A. Investigating the role of digital emerging enterprises specialized in food delivery service in saudi context: customers'point of view (case study: hungers). International Journal of Management (IJM). 2021;12(1):1043-56.

12. Alfawzan M, Aljarallah A. The Impact of Calories Labeling Policy in Saudi Arabia: Comparing Physical and Online Channels. 2020.

13. Alfawaz H, Amer OE, Aljumah AA, Aldisi DA, Enani MA, Aljohani NJ, et al. Effects of home quarantine during COVID-19 lockdown on physical activity and dietary habits of adults in Saudi Arabia. Scientific reports. 2021;11(1):1-7.

14. Horta PM, Matos JP, Mendes LL. Digital food environment during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Brazil: an analysis of food advertising in an online food delivery platform. Br J Nutr. 2020:1-6.

15. Galanakis CM. The Food Systems in the Era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Crisis. Foods. 2020;9(4).

16. Mattioli AV, Sciomer S, Cocchi C, Maffei S, Gallina S. Quarantine during COVID-19 outbreak: Changes in diet and physical activity increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2020;30(9):1409-17.

17. Almansour FD, Allafi AR, Zafar TA, Al-Haifi AR. Consumer prevalence, attitude and dietary behavior of online food delivery applications users in Kuwait. Acta Bio Medica: Atenei Parmensis. 2020;91(4).

18. Alhusseini N, Banta JE, Oh J, Montgomery S. Understanding the Use of Electronic Means to Seek Personal Health Information Among Adults in the United States. Cureus. 2020;12(10).

19. Matsungo TM, Chopera P. Effect of the COVID-19-induced lockdown on nutrition, health and lifestyle patterns among adults in Zimbabwe. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. 2020;3(2):205.

20. Zheng C, Huang WY, Sheridan S, Sit CH-P, Chen X-K, Wong SH-S. COVID-19 pandemic brings a sedentary lifestyle in young adults: a cross-sectional and longitudinal study. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2020;17(17):6035.

21. Kartono R, Tjahjadi JK. Factors Affecting Consumers’ Intentions to Use Online Food Delivery Services During COVID-19 Outbreak in Jabodetabek Area. The Winners. 2021;22(1).

22. Botelho LV, Cardoso LdO, Canella DS. COVID-19 and the digital food environment in Brazil: reflections on the pandemic’s influence on the use of food delivery apps. Cadernos de Saúde Pública. 2020;36:e00148020.

23. Sharma R, Dhir A, Talwar S, Kaur P. Over-ordering and food waste: The use of food delivery apps during a pandemic. International Journal of Hospitality Management. 2021;96:102977.

24. Rodgers RF, Lombardo C, Cerolini S, Franko DL, Omori M, Fuller-Tyszkiewicz M, et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on eating disorder risk and symptoms. Int J Eat Disord. 2020;53(7):1166-70.

25. 25. Jiang Y, Wang J, Wu S, Li N, Wang Y, Liu J, et al. Association between Take-Out food consumption and obesity among Chinese university students: a cross-sectional study. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2019;16(6):1071.

26. Salem V, AlHusseini N, Abdul Razack HI, Naoum A, Sims OT, Alqahtani SA. Prevalence, risk factors, and interventions for obesity in Saudi Arabia: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews. 2022:e13448.

27. Chin SH, Kahathuduwa C, Binks M. Physical activity and obesity: what we know and what we need to know. Obesity Reviews. 2016;17(12):1226-44.