More than one in five children and adolescents in the United States is obese

A new study finds that America’s obesity crisis has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a sharp increase in case rates among the younger population.

Researchers at the Child Obesity and Health Behavior Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that 21.5 percent of Americans ages 2 to 19 will be obese in 2020.

That’s a 17 percent jump from previous data collected in 2016 — indicating a worsening obesity crisis in America and highlighting another potentially negative long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Americans’ health.

America’s high rates of obesity aren’t just limited to young adults, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 percent of American adults are obese.

Child obesity rates in the United States jumped 17% from 2011 to 2020, with people ages 12 to 19 most at risk.

Children who are obese are more likely to remain in this condition for the rest of their lives, exposing them to many health problems in the future (file photo)

Children who are obese are more likely to remain in this condition for the rest of their lives, exposing them to many health problems in the future (file photo)

“Obesity among youth is a major public health concern in the United States,” the study authors wrote.

The team, which published their findings Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, collected data from across 2010 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the study.

The survey is conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to measure the overall level of health and nutrition-related problems in the United States.

In all, data of 14,967 children aged 2 to 19 years were included in the study.

The data was also divided into three age groups, two to five years, six to 11 years, and adolescents 12 to 19 years of age.

In all, just over 21 percent of children aged two to 19 were found to meet the criteria for being considered clinically obese—a jump of 17 percent from 17.7 percent recorded in 2011 and 2012.

How does obesity affect the brain?

The effect of obesity on the brain is poorly understood and a growing field of research.

A study conducted by the University of Alabama indicates that being overweight impairs our cognitive functions even in those without dementia.

Brain scans of obese patients revealed that older adults who carried dangerous amounts of weight had higher levels of brain cell degeneration.

However, it is unclear whether this also occurs in younger patients.

Obesity has also been linked to decreased attention span, as well as slowed motor speed and information processing.

Older people have been found to be consistently more affected, possibly due to the deterioration of cognitive function with age anyway.

Decreased cognitive function may affect an obese person’s ability to lose weight.

Impaired memory and function have also been linked to patients “slipping” out of a weight loss program after bariatric surgery.

source: Psychology Today

This rise was mainly driven by the older age group. Teens aged 12 to 17 saw a massive 27 percent increase in their obesity rate from 2011 to 2020, jumping from 20.1 percent to 25.6 percent.

The biggest shift was between 2015 and 2016 to 2020 – rising from 21.7 percent to 25.6 percent.

Obesity among 6- to 11-year-olds isn’t quite as prevalent, but rates are also shockingly high.

Researchers found that 22.8 percent of children in this age group had clinical obesity – up from 20.4 percent in 2015 and 2016.

Obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds are declining, a potentially promising sign that America’s diet crisis can soon be curbed.

The survey found that 12.9 percent of the youngest children in the study were obese – down from 13.9 percent four years ago.

However, that number still represents an increase over the decade, from 10.3 percent in 2011 and 2012.

Concerned by the findings, the researchers write that more research needs to be done to determine the risk factors a child may have to become obese later in life.

The causes of the obesity crisis in the country are multifaceted although they are not attributed to a single factor alone.

A Pew Research study found that Americans now eat 23 percent more calories than they did in previous decades.

This is coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle that many lead. Children are less likely to get the recommended one hour of daily physical activity now than they were in previous years.

The pandemic has likely exacerbated these issues. Children who stayed home from school were less likely to go and play outdoors where they could get more exercise.

They were also more likely to snack throughout the day, adding calories they wouldn’t previously have in a more structured school setting.

While children who are obese still have time to lose weight and eventually live a healthy life, it causes them to face more health problems later on.

Many obese children are diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, the former being a lifelong condition that is often dealt with on a daily basis to lead a healthy life.

They are also more likely to remain obese for the rest of their lives, leaving them vulnerable to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure among others.

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