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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.