Study: Childhood obesity in US accelerated during pandemic
NEW YORK (AP) — A new study ties the COVID-19 pandemic to an “alarming” increase in obesity in U.S. children and teenagers.
Childhood obesity has been increasing for decades, but the new work suggests an acceleration last year — especially in those who already were obese when the pandemic started.
The results signal a “profound increase in weight gain for kids” and are “substantial and alarming,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Alyson Goodman of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
The CDC on Thursday released the study, which is the largest yet to look at obesity trends during the pandemic.
— An estimated 22% of children and teens were obese last August, up from 19% a year earlier.
— Before the pandemic, children who were a healthy weight were gaining an average of 3.4 pounds a 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.
— For severely obese kids, expected annual weight gain went from 8.8 pounds to 14.6 pounds.
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.
The research was based on a review of the medical records of more than 432,000 kids and teens, ages of 2 to 19, who were weighed and measured at least twice before the pandemic and at least once early in the pandemic.
Some limitations: It only included children who got care before and during the pandemic, the researchers said. And it also did not offer a look at how obesity trends may have differed between racial and ethnic groups.
Earlier this week, the CDC said the number of states in which at least 35% of residents are obese increased last year by four.
Delaware, Iowa, Ohio and Texas joined the list. In 2019, there were 12 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Those results was based on surveys where adults described their own height and weight, and are not as accurate as medical records.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, ties the COVID-19 pandemic to an “alarming” increase in obesity in U.S. children and teenagers.
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Unfortunately, Americans are notorious for not making the healthiest eating choices. Research has shown that eating healthy isn’t a series of diet-centered choices, but rather the aggregated results of small habits performed consistently. That’s where other cultures come in. Some places around the world such as Okinawa and Sardinia are famous for the longevity of their residents, and Americans can take some cues from their practices around eating, cooking and more. If you’re looking to shake up your routine, consider incorporating some of these healthy eating habits from other cultures around the world.
A 2016 report named Iceland the healthiest country in the world. While that measure was based on many factors, the country’s diet high in fresh fish likely contributed. People in Iceland consume an average of 250 grams of seafood per day, according to the United Nations, compared to 60 grams in the U.S, meaning Icelanders are getting lots more heart-health boosting omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and death from coronary heart disease.
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The same report ranked Singapore the second-healthiest country in the world, and the Bloomberg Global Health Index named Singapore the healthiest Asian country in 2017, in large part due to its extensive health care system. Another factor that could be contributing to its healthy rankings is the abundance of anti-inflammatory spices found in Singaporean cuisine, such as garlic, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. More than 10,000 studies have shown that turmeric, also known as the “golden spice,” has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. While inflammation is a natural response and a necessary bodily defense, chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
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Sweden, ranked as the third-healthiest country in the world, has made its national dietary guidelines as simple to follow as a traffic light. The country’s National Food Agency encourages Swedes to adhere to three ideas in equal parts: green means to eat more vegetables, yellow signals to switch to grains and red means to eat less red meat. A simple, balanced approach like this is easier to follow in the long run. Sweden also regularly ranks among the happiest countries in the world, partly due to low levels of stress, which can lead to headaches, shortness of breath and cardiovascular damage. There is a link between how we feel and what we eat, so managing stress also factors into healthy eating habits.
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Many Americans are familiar with the “food pyramid” introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture, but perhaps it's time to give a different perspective a spin. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recommend an inverted-pyramid style of food consumption, with whole grains on the top, and sugar and sweets on the bottom, with the whole thing powered by regular exercise on an axis of hydration, creating a “spinning top.” Japan is home to one of the densest populations of centenarians in the world: the island of Okinawa. Residents here also have less cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans. They rely on fresh food, mostly vegetables, to surpass the lifespan of most of the world.
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While the “French paradox” — the idea that consuming large amounts of saturated fats like cheese can be offset by red wine at every meal — is actually too good to be true, Americans can still learn from French food habits. The large portion sizes common at American restaurants and dinner tables have been linked to unhealthy weight gain, while portions in France are smaller and people spend more time eating their meals. To savor your food and enjoy mealtimes, consider setting the table with smaller plates and eating lunch away from your desk.
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While France’s famous fermented dairy products like cheese and yogurt resulted from that population’s proximity to livestock, the microbial preservation practices of Asian populations were used more on grains and vegetables. The bacteria in fermented plant products contribute to healthy gut bacteria and ease inflammatory responses in the body, and in South Korea, kimchi, fermented cabbage and radish, is served at every meal. A 2017 study found that South Korea will likely have the highest worldwide life expectancy by 2030. Women are expected to live on average to the age of 91, while men are expected to live until age 84.
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In 2018, Spain joined Japan and Singapore on a list of countries expected to exceed an 85-year life span by 2040, in part due to adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This well-known diet emphasizes whole grains, fresh produce and little red meat. According to the UN, Spain consumes 300 grams of vegetables per capita per day, while on the other hand, Americans consume twice as much red meat as the global average. To boost your fruit and veggie intake, the American Heart Association recommends keeping a bowl of fruit handy and visible for snacking and adding a handful of frozen peas to rice or pasta.
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Sardinia’s men are some of the longest-living in the world because they are shepherds who regularly take long, gentle walks of 5 miles a day or more, on average. Their diet contains a lot of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and meat is only eaten occasionally. Beans, from soybeans to chickpeas to black beans, are a cornerstone of diets in the longest-living places in the world, and legume consumption is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. A 2004 study of people aged 70 and older across five countries around the world found that for every two tablespoons of beans a day that an individual consumed, they reduced their risk of dying by 7-8%.