Child obesity has a new enemy – the pandemic

Child obesity has a new enemy – the pandemic

A May study in the journal, Pediatrics, found that the percentage of children ages 2 to 17 who are obese increased to 15.4% in June to December 2020 compared with 13.7% in the year-earlier period.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia analyzed pre-pandemic and pandemic body mass index calculations from more than 500,000 visits to doctors’ offices in 2019 and 2020. “We found a pretty striking increase in obesity rates,” says Brian Jenssen, first author of the study and a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital. The data indicated the percentage of children categorized as overweight grew to about 16% from about 14%, Dr. Jenssen told the Wall St. Journal, although those numbers weren’t published in the study, which focused on obesity.

Dr. Jenssen said the biggest increase in obesity was in children ages 5 to 9; their obesity rate went to 16.8% from 14.2%. Children and adolescents from lower-income households and those who are Latino also showed larger-than-average increases. Doctors say they are seeing normal-weight children become overweight or even obese as many are going to their doctors for the first time since the pandemic began. And the results are alarming, overweight children become obese, and obese children add more weight. Doctors also report increases in weight-related health conditions in children, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease. And some children with pre-diabetes are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

At the I.D.E.A.L. pediatric weight management clinic at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., many of the children with obesity gained 20 to 30 pounds during the pandemic. Like many adults, kids are snacking more and moving less. The problem is of epidemic proportions and my concern is that with this behavior, their immunity will become even weaker and whether its during the next flu season, or worse – another pandemic, even more lives will be at risk.

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Phil Lempert