- A CDC study finds that about 22% of children in the US are now obese, up from 19% in August 2020
- For severely obese children, expected annual weight gain increased from 8.8 pounds to 14.6 pounds, nearly double
- There has been a particularly sharp increase in BMI in children between the ages of six and 11, with about two BMI levels rising in each.
- Almost all children, regardless of their previous health, gained above-normal weight during the pandemic
- More than 35% of Americans in 16 states are obese as CDC warns US obesity epidemic is getting worse
- Obese people have a higher risk of heart disease, joint problems, type 2 diabetes and other conditions
The COVID-19 pandemic is linked to an ‘alarming’ increase in obesity among US children and adolescents, with severely obese children doubling in weight during the pandemic, A new study finds.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at more than 400,000 teens.
They found that the share of children with obesity in the US increased from 19 percent to 22 percent from August 2020 to August 2021 – an increase of 15 percent.
For severely obese children, the expected annual weight gain increased from 8.8 pounds to 14.6 pounds, almost double.
The study highlights one of the many long-term issues that may arise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some health officials will have to worry about moving forward in the post-Covid world.
Children aged three to five who were already severely obese when the epidemic began (solid blue line) had a severe increase in their BMI during the pandemic
Almost all children aged six to 11, no matter their weight at the start of the epidemic, had gained weight during the pandemic
For the study, the team looked at data from more than 432,302 Americans aged two to 19.
Children, whether overweight or not, are also gaining more weight than normal.
Before the pandemic, healthy-weight children were gaining an average of 3.4 pounds per year. This increased to 5.4 pounds during the pandemic.
For moderately obese children, the estimated weight gain increased from 6.5 pounds a year before the epidemic began to 12 pounds.
The researchers said obesity rates rose most dramatically among children aged 6 to 11, who are more dependent on their parents and may be more affected if schools suspend individual classes.
Dr Alison Goodman, a medical epidemiologist and pediatrician at the CDC, described the trend as ‘alarming’.
It is also a sign of a vicious cycle.
The pandemic appears to be worsening the country’s long-running obesity epidemic, and obesity may put people at risk of more serious illness after coronavirus infection.
CDC officials have recently warned about the obesity problem in America.
Earlier this week, the agency reported that sixteen states have obesity rates of 35 percent or more, the highest for the country.
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia have now reached dangerous levels of obesity.
The obesity epidemic has gotten particularly bad in recent years, with the rate nearly doubling from more than 35 percent since 2018 across states.
Adolescents aged 12 to 17 saw an increase in their weight after the pandemic, while children aged 18 to 20 saw their weight remain relatively flat.
Obese people have a higher risk of heart disease, joint problems, type 2 diabetes and other conditions (file photo)
The new CDC study found that children aged five years or younger who were already severely obese before the pandemic had an average body mass index (BMI) increased from 24 to 26.
The worst group were severely obese children aged six to 11, whose BMI jumped an average of 26 to 31 during the pandemic.
The study found that almost all children aged six to 11, no matter their previous fitness level, gained weight during the pandemic.
Being obese as a child can open the door to a variety of health problems, both now and in the future.
Children who are overweight are more likely to be obese as adults and have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or joint problems.
They can also develop low self-esteem and psychological issues such as anxiety and depression.