Coronavirus Chronicles — Hand in Hand, Obesity and COVID-19

Obesity and COVID-19 are very compatible with each other, as Childhood Obesity News has pointed out before. Reports keep piling up that describe the simpatico relationship between the two plagues. One thing the coronavirus does is force people to eat highly processed, nutritionally impoverished junk, even when they know better and don’t want to.

A lot of families with children are currently fed by food bank donations, a problem described by the title of a recent article: “Ultra-Processed Food Consumption among the Paediatric Population: An Overview and Call to Action from the European Childhood Obesity Group.” Of course our whole society should be grateful that generous people and businesses contribute to food banks, especially in places where the need is so great that the waiting lines are incredibly long. Part of the problem here is that the donated goods need to have “shelf life,” and to get that, there has to be a lot of processing, with the consequent loss of nutrients and their replacement with placeholders and additives.

People who have a choice, who still have a thing called a food budget, and access to a grocery store, do not always exercise the best judgment. They have a lot on their minds, and anything that reminds them of normalcy is welcome, even if it isn’t particularly healthful.

Most of all, they have children who are deprived of a lot — their school routines, their friends, the ability to play at neighborhood playgrounds. Parents must cope with having the kids around all the time, and trying to homeschool them, or to figure out the technical requirements to participate in distance learning.

If they are lucky enough to still have a job, they are either doing it from home or scrambling to find safe and affordable child care. Niceties like a proper diet somehow slide down to the bottom of the priorities list. As far back as April, New York Times reporter Anahad O’Connor remarked that “sales of ultra-processed comfort foods like Oreo cookies, potato chips and macaroni and cheese have soared.”

Around that same time, a Tufts University study looked at the eating habits of children in the time of coronavirus. Epidemiologist Junxiu Liu told The New York Times that the researchers found “small but encouraging improvements.” Kids’ consumption of whole fruits and whole grains had increased, and according to their sources, they were drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

But there’s been little progress in curbing unwholesome consumption of processed meats, refined grains and salt… There’s still a lot of added sugars in breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes and candy in children’s diets.

Personal health columnist Jane E. Brody wrote,

Snacks represent yet another deterrent to improving the quality of children’s diets, the experts said. It is the rare child in a stroller without a packet of a commercial snack that, even if not sweet or salty, is usually a refined carbohydrate. A whole generation is being raised with a perpetual need for oral gratification that bodes ill for current and future efforts to curb the obesity epidemic.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Action from the European Childhood Obesity Group,” Karger.com, 04/28/20
Source: “Endless Summer Puts Homebound Kids at Risk for Weight Gain,” NYTimes.com, 04/30/20
Source: “Using Shelter-in-Place Time to Foster Better Family Food Habits,” NYTimes.com, 04/06/20
Images by Quinn Dombrowski and Kristal Kraft CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources