America’s obesity crisis has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the condition rising sharply among the youngest population, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behavior Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that in 2020, 21.5 percent of Americans between the ages of two and 19 were obese.
That’s a 17 percent jump from previous data collected in 2016, indicating America’s obesity crisis is worsening and highlighting another long-term negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Americans’ health.
America’s high rates of obesity are not limited to the young, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 percent of American adults are obese.
Childhood obesity rates in the US increased 17% between 2011 and 2020, with 12- to 19-year-olds at the highest risk.
Obese children remain obese throughout their lives, causing many health problems (file photo)
“Youth obesity is a major public health problem in the United States,” the researchers wrote.
The team, which published its findings Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2010 for the study.
The survey is conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the overall level of health and nutrition-related problems in the United States.
A total of 14,967 children between the ages of two and 19 were included in the study.
The data were also divided into three age groups: children aged two to five, children aged six to 11 and adolescents aged 12 to 19.
Overall, just over 21 percent of children ages 2 to 19 were found to meet criteria for clinical obesity — a jump from 17.7 percent in 2011 and 2012 to 17 percent.
HOW DOES OBESITY AFFECT THE BRAIN?
The effects of obesity on the brain are poorly understood and research is growing.
According to a study by the University of Alabama, excess weight can cause cognitive impairment in people with dementia.
And brain scans of obese patients show higher levels of brain cell degeneration than older people who are overweight.
However, it is not known whether this also occurs in younger patients.
Obesity has also been linked to reduced attention span, as well as slower motor speed and slower information processing.
Older people are consistently more affected, which may be due to age-related decline in cognitive function.
And a decline in cognitive function can affect an obese person’s ability to lose weight.
Impaired memory and functioning have also been linked to patients ‘dropping out’ of weight loss programs after bariatric surgery.
A source: Psychology today
This increase was mainly due to the older age group. Between 2011 and 2020, the obesity rate among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years increased by 27 percent, from 20.1 percent to 25.6 percent.
From 2015 to 2016 to 2020, the change was the largest, increasing from 21.7 percent to 25.6 percent.
Obesity is not as common among children between the ages of 6 and 11, but the rates are also surprisingly high.
The researchers found that 22.8 percent of young children were clinically obese – up from 20.4 percent in 2015 and 2016.
Obesity rates among children between the ages of two and five are on the decline, a promising sign that America’s diet crisis may soon be curbed.
The study found that 12.9 percent of the youngest children in the study were obese, down from 13.9 percent four years earlier.
Compared to 10.3 percent in 2011 and 2012, it is still growing over the decade.
The researchers are concerned about the findings, and write that more research is needed to determine what a child’s risk of obesity may be later in life.
The causes of the nation’s obesity crisis are multifaceted and not tied to a single factor.
A Pew Research study found that Americans are eating 23 percent more calories now than in previous decades.
This is combined with the sedentary lifestyle that many live. Children are less likely to get the recommended hour of physical activity now than in previous years.
The pandemic exacerbates these issues. Children who stayed home from school were less likely to go out and play to get more exercise.
They also ate throughout the day, adding calories that they didn’t previously have in a structured school environment.
Obese children still have time to lose weight and live a healthy life, but this will only solve their health problems later.
Many obese children are managed with diabetes or prediabetes, the first of which is a daily lifestyle requirement for a healthy lifestyle.
They also become obese throughout their lives, causing health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, among others.