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Obesity rates among American children and teens are rising

According to Staiano, director of the paediatric obesity and health behaviour lab at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, the percentage of obese children rose from 18% in the 2011 cycle to 22% in the 2020 cycle.

According to a new analysis of data from a national health survey, obesity rates increased for children between the ages of 2 and 5 and 12- to 19-year-olds from 2011 to 2012 and once more from 2017 to 2020. According to Amanda Staiano, the study’s primary author, the increase was seen among American children of all racial and cultural backgrounds.

“What is even more alarming is these data were all collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other data published recently show that kids are gaining even more weight because of restrictions to their diet and activity during the pandemic,” Staiano said.

Staiano worries that the results of the upcoming National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey will be even worse. She said that obesity had serious health repercussions, including several malignancies, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, joint issues, anxiety, and depression.

According to Staiano, children are paying the price for this illness, and adults are footing the bill for the additional health care costs associated with children developing illnesses and needing treatment. Because obese children typically perform worse in school, obesity has an impact on many facets of a child’s life.

Staiano and Kathy Hu, a colleague at the Pennington Center, examined data from approximately 15,000 American children and teenagers who participated in the national health and nutrition survey in the years 2011–2012, 2013–2014, 2015–2016, and 2017–2020 for the study.

Obesity increased among children aged 2 to 19 from 17.7 percent in 2011 and 2012 to 21.5 percent in the 2017-2020 survey. Boys’ obesity rates increased from 18 to 21.4 percent during the course of the ten-year period, while girls’ rates increased from 17 to 21.6 percent. The prevalence of obesity increased dramatically among preschoolers and teenagers but not among children aged 6 to 11 years old. Overall, Mexican-American children’s obesity rates increased from 21.8 to 27 percent, Black children’s rates increased from 19.5 to 23.8 percent, and White children’s rates increased from 15 to 18.4 percent, according to Staiano and Hu.

According to Staiano, medical professionals should check patients for obesity and conditions associated to it that impact the heart, lungs, and metabolism. However, she continued, it will be the responsibility of American society as a whole to find a solution.

“Health care providers should provide counseling and evidence-based programs to support families to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Insurance companies should follow the Affordable Care Act to pay for these weight management services as a way to prevent debilitating and costly disease. Parents and kids should talk to their doctors and school nurses to develop a healthy eating and activity plan that will work for their family. A lot of weight gain occurs when kids are off of school during the summertime, so community leaders and government officials should advocate for feeding programs to provide healthy meals during this out-of-school time and to provide camps and programs with structured activity during the summer,” the researcher said.

To slow down weight gain or assist children in losing weight in a healthy and sustainable way, according to Staiano, investments in lifestyle and behaviour weight management programmes, medications, and metabolic and bariatric surgery options are needed. Civic leaders should also ensure that walking trails, public parks, and playgrounds are secure and well-maintained.

Dr. David Katz examined the data. He claimed that America has been fighting a losing war against childhood obesity for more than three decades. Katz called it a “national disgrace” because it was a serious issue that could be resolved whenever there was a sincere desire to do so. These new data show that obesity gets worse not mysteriously, but because our society has never made any serious effort to fix it, Katz said.

The findings were published online July 25 in JAMA Pediatrics .

Obesity rates among American children and teens are rising

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