The illustration on this page is not a leftover Halloween decoration, but merely another in the endless series of possible depictions of the twin horrors of obesity and the coronavirus when they join forces. Okay, sure, childhood obesity was already a noteworthy trend, but the pandemic has caused this trend to, as pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Marisa Censani puts it, soar to new levels.
She speaks of the physical, emotional, social, and academic costs of the virus. Even patients in her obesity practice who had been successful in losing weight before the pandemic are showing up with worrisome weight gains. Over the past 30 years, adolescent obesity has tripled, and the presence of a deadly disease that seemingly cannot be conquered has only made things worse.
The (relative) good news is that during the same three decades, obesity among the two- to five-year-old demographic has only doubled. Dr. Censani says,
Before COVID-19, obesity affected around 20% of American children 2 to 19 years of age. Now, the numbers are expected to rise much further, with modeling studies predicting at least a 3% to 4% weight gain in children during the pandemic.
Dr. Censani characterizes the relationship between the two pandemics as a “dangerous collision” and lists reasons that Childhood Obesity News has dutifully covered. For the nation’s youth, the worsening of an already existing mental health crisis is just another feature of the multi-pronged attack on their wellbeing. Anxiety, depression, food insecurity, boredom, the perceived need for “comfort eating,” and other factors exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have made the future look dim. Long-term consequences, of course, are always of concern, and they include “type 2 diabetes, stroke, and ischemic heart disease later in life.”
Of course, the USA is not the only place on the globe affected by the twin pandemics. For instance, an article to be published in the December edition of the American Heart Journal discusses an anthropomorphic survey carried out in Algerian primary schools. About 15% of children were found to be overweight or obese, and the researchers’ conclusion reads,
Childhood overweight and obesity are an increasing reality worldwide, including in Algeria. Prompt, proactive actions are needed to refrain the onset of post-puberty obesity, real prelude of adulthood cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
What can and should be done? Dr. Sara Karjoo characterizes the increase in weight among young people as “substantial and alarming.” She mentions advances in the continuing education area of this field, for medical professionals, and points out that new tools are available:
Many healthcare professionals did not receive training in pediatric obesity medicine and will therefore benefit from self-study. By addressing obesity in pediatric patient care, physicians can potentially slow the progression of metabolic disease, along with numerous serious chronic diseases. And by taking these steps, we can serve as better advocates for our patients’ future health.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Childhood Obesity Is Soaring to New Levels,” MedPageToday.com, 10/30/21
Source: “CDC Study Finds “Alarming” Increase in Pediatric Obesity Rates: 5 Points for Physicians to Understand,” PhysiciansWeekly.com, 11/01/21
Source: “The ‘Great Wave’: Childhood Obesity and Overweight,” ScienceDirect.com, December 2021
Images by Tracy and Maayan Windmuller/CC BY-ND 2.0