Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lookedat more than than 400,000 adolescents.
They found that the share of children with obesity in the U.S. increased from 19 percent to 22 percent from August 2020 to August 2021 – a 15 percent increase.
For severely obese kids, expected annual weight gain went from 8.8 pounds to 14.6 pounds, nearly double.
The study highlights one of many long-term issues that could arise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and something health officials will have to worry about going forward in a post-Covid world.
Children aged three to five years old who were already severely obese when the pandemic started (solid blue line) had their BMI increase severely during the pandemic
Almost all children aged six to 11, no matter their weight at the start of the pandemic, had their weight increase during the pandemic
For the study, the team looked at data on more than 432,302 Americans between ages two and 19.
Children, whether overweight or not, are also gaining more weight that usual.
Before the pandemic, children who were a healthy weight were gaining an average of 3.4 pounds per year. That rose to 5.4 pounds during the pandemic.
For kids who were moderately obese, expected weight gain rose from 6.5 pounds a year before the pandemic to 12 pounds after the pandemic began.
The rate of obesity increased most dramatically in kids ages 6 to 11, who are more dependent on their parents and may have been more affected when schools suspended in-person classes, the researchers said.
Dr Alyson Goodman, a medical epidemiologist and pediatrician at the CDC, described the trend as ‘alarming’.
It’s also a sign of a vicious cycle.
The pandemic appears to be worsening the nation’s longstanding obesity epidemic, and obesity can put people at risk for more severe illness after coronavirus infection.
Officials from the CDC have warned about the obesity issue in America recently.
Earlier this week, the agency reported that sixteen states have an obesity rate of 35 percent or higher, the most ever for the nation.
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia have now have reached dangerous levels of obesity.
The obesity epidemic has gotten particularly bad in recent years, with the total of states with a rate of over 35 percent nearly doubling since 2018.
Teens from ages 12 to 17 saw their weights increase after the pandemic while 18-to-20-year-olds saw weights remain relatively flat
People with obesity are at high risk of heart disease, joint issues, type 2 diabetes and other conditions (File Photo)
The new CDC study found that children five years old or younger who were already severely obese before the pandemic had their body mass index (BMI) increasing from 24 to 26 on average.
The worst off group was severely obese children aged six to 11, whose BMI jumped from 26 to 31 on average during the pandemic.
Almost all kids aged six to 11, no matter their previous fitness level, gained weight during the pandemic, the study found.
Having obesity as a child could open the door to a variety of health issues both in the present and further down the line.
Overweight children are more likely to be obese as adults and develop high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or have joint problems.
They may also develop psychological issues such as a lower self-esteem and anxiety and depression.