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U.S. Youth Gained Significant Weight During the Pandemic

Largest gains in median body mass index and overweight/obesity occurred in youth aged 5 to 11 years

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THURSDAY, Sept. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. youth experienced significant weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a research letter published online Aug. 27 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Susan J. Woolford, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Northville, and colleagues used Kaiser Permanente Southern California electronic health record data to compare the body mass index (BMI) of 191,509 youths (aged 5 to 17 years) during the pandemic (March 2020 to January 2021) to that of the same period before the pandemic (March 2019 to January 2020).

The researchers found that youths gained more weight during the COVID-19 pandemic than before the pandemic, with the greatest change in distance from the median BMI occurring among 5- through 11-year-olds (increased BMI of 1.57) versus increases of 0.91 among 12- through 15-year-olds and 0.48 among 16- through 17-year-olds. These findings yield a mean gain of 2.30 kg more during the pandemic versus the reference period among 5- through 11-year-olds, 2.31 kg more among 12- through 15-year-olds, and 1.03 kg more among 16- through 17-year-olds, when adjusting for height. Among 5- through 11-year-olds, overweight or obesity increased from 36.2 to 45.7 percent during the pandemic, a relative increase of 23.8 percent versus the reference period.

"These findings, if generalizable to the United States suggest an increase in pediatric obesity due to the pandemic," the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text

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