November 29, 2021

Childhood obesity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, study finds

More sedentary time and more access to the refrigerator increases the risk of gaining weight, experts say.

COLORADO, USA — With the arrival of the pandemic and changes rapidly occurring to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many children took the brunt of that tumultuous period. Some had to adjust to the isolation of having to be at home, adapt to virtual schooling and interrupt nearly all of their normal physical activities. A period that not only affected some children mentally, but also physically.

>The video above is from October 2020: 9Health expert Dr. Payal Kohli spoke with Colorado & Colorado about obesity rates increasing during the pandemic.

A recent study published in August by JAMA found that during the pandemic childhood obesity increased.

The researchers found that the biggest change occurred among children ages 5 to 11 with an increase in body mass index (BMI) of 1.57. This translates to a mean gain of five pounds during the pandemic. 

Before the pandemic, about 36% of children ages 5 to 11 were considered overweight or obese, and according to the study, that number has risen to 45.7%.

Associate physician, Hector L. Frisbie PhDc Public Health at Colorado Family Clinic, said that “being sedentary and having access to food at home increases the risk of gaining weight.”

Weight gain that could affect the way children who contract COVID-19 respond.

According to Frisbie, children who are obese have a factor known as low intensity chronic inflammation, a risk factor for presenting severe COVID-19 or even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, and young people who are diagnosed with obesity may suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19.

The CDC said that obese patients 18 and younger have a 3.07 times greater risk of hospitalization.  

The retrospective cohort study was conducted using electronic health record data of youth ages 5 to 17 from Kaiser Permanente in Southern California (KPSC). 

The study concluded that significant weight gain occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic among youths in KPSC, especially among the youngest children and “if generalizable to the US suggest an increase in pediatric obesity due to the pandemic.”

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