Obesity rates continue to climb among American children and adolescents | Health, Medicine and Fitness
MONDAY, July 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For the first time ever, more than one in five American children are obese.
From 2011 to 2012 and then from 2017 to 2020, obesity rates increased among children 2 to 5 years old as well as among 12 to 19 year olds, according to a new analysis of data from a national health survey. And the rise was true for American children of all races and ethnicities, according to study leader Amanda Staiano.
“The proportion of children with obesity went from 18% in the 2011 cycle to 22% in the 2020 cycle,” said Staiano, director of the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behaviors Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
“What is even more alarming is that this data was all collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, and other data released recently shows that children are gaining even more weight due to restrictions in their diets and of their activities during the pandemic,” she said.
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Staiano fears the numbers will be even worse in the next National Health and Nutrition Survey.
Obesity has significant health consequences, she said, from certain cancers to diabetes, heart disease, asthma, joint problems, anxiety and depression.
“Children bear the cost of this disease, and adults pay the additional health care costs of children growing up with diseases and needing treatment,” Staiano said. “Children who don’t eat a nutritious diet tend to perform worse in school, so obesity affects all areas of a child’s life.”
For the study, she and her Pennington Center colleague, Kathy Hu, analyzed data from nearly 15,000 American children and adolescents who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Survey in 2011-2012, 2013- 2014, 2015-2016 and 2017-2020.
Among 2 to 19 year olds, obesity rose from 17.7% between 2011 and 2012 to 21.5% in the 2017-2020 survey.
Over the decade, obesity rates for boys rose from 18% to 21.4% and for girls, from 17% to 21.6%.
While obesity rates rose significantly among preschoolers and teens, they didn’t rise among 6- to 11-year-olds.
Overall, obesity rates among children ages 2 to 19 rose from 21.8% to 27% among Mexican Americans; 19.5% to 23.8% among black youth and 15% to 18.4% among white children, Staiano and Hu found.
To help stem the rising tide of obesity, Staiano said doctors should screen for and monitor obesity and related diseases that affect the heart, lungs and metabolism. But, she added, solving the problem will be the work of American society as a whole.
“Healthcare providers should provide evidence-based counseling and programs to help families lead healthier lifestyles,” Staiano said. “Insurance companies should follow the Affordable Care Act to pay for these weight management services to prevent debilitating and costly illnesses.”
Prevention and early treatment are essential for children to gain a healthy weight, she said.
“Much of the weight gain occurs when children are out of school during the summer, so community leaders and government officials should advocate for feeding programs to provide healthy meals during this time away from school and to offer camps and programs with structured activities during the summer,” she says.
Staiano said investments are needed in lifestyle and behavioral weight management programs, medications, and metabolic and bariatric surgery options for children to slow their weight gain or help them lose weight. in a safe and sustainable way.
“City leaders should encourage grocery stores and convenience stores offering healthy food options to locate in food deserts and also ensure that walking paths, public parks and playgrounds are safe and well-maintained,” he said. she added.
Dr. David Katz, preventive medicine and lifestyle specialist and president of the True Health Initiative in Tulsa, Okla., reviewed the results.
He said the losing battle against childhood obesity in America has been going on for more than three decades.
“Put bluntly, it’s a national disgrace, because this problem is one with dire consequences that we could solve any time we genuinely commit to doing so,” Katz said.
Obesity is rising relentlessly because entire industries are profiting from it, he pointed out.
“The problem is getting worse because far more resources are being invested in spreading the problem than in solving it,” Katz said. “We know, for example, that we have a food supply of deliberately addictive junk food designed to maximize nutrition, while making futile recommendations for ‘portion control’ without addressing the root cause.”
These new data show obesity is getting worse not mysteriously, but because our society has never made serious efforts to address it, Katz said.
“We would be well advised to treat obesity in our children as we treat drowning – for, after all, they are drowning in the super-appetizing calories of ultra-processed foods and the effort-saving technologies that proliferate without stop,” he said. said.
What’s needed, Katz said, is mandatory education about the dangers of overeating and not exercising, along with widespread reminders about healthy eating. He likened this to the many steps needed to keep children safe around water.
“After 30 years of personal dedication to the cause, I look forward to seeing this day dawn for me and for all other parents,” Katz said.
The results were published online July 25 in JAMA Pediatrics.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention know more about childhood obesity.
SOURCES: Amanda Staiano, PhD, director, pediatric obesity and health behavior, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge; David Katz, MD, MPH, specialist, preventive and lifestyle medicine, and president, True Health Initiative, Tulsa, Okla. ; JAMA PediatricsJuly 25, 2022, online