MONDAY, July 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For the first time ever, more than 1 in 5 American kids is obese.
From 2011 to 2012 and again from 2017 to 2020, rates of obesity rose for kids between 2 and 5 years of age as well as 12- to 19-year-olds, a new analysis of nationwide health survey data shows. And the uptick was true for U.S. kids of every race and ethnic background, according to study leader Amanda Staiano.
“The proportion of kids having obesity increased from 18% in the 2011 cycle to 22% in the 2020 cycle,” said Staiano, director of the pediatric obesity and health behavior lab at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
“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,” she said.
Staiano fears the numbers will be even worse in the next National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Obesity has significant health consequences, she said, from some cancers to diabetes, heart disease, asthma, joint problems, anxiety and depression.
“Kids are bearing the cost of this disease, and adults are paying for the added health care costs of kids growing up with diseases and needing treatment,” Staiano said. “Kids who aren’t eating nutritious diets tend to perform worse in school, and so obesity affects every area of a child’s life.”
For the study, she and her Pennington Center colleague Kathy Hu analyzed data on nearly 15,000 U.S. children and teens who took part in the nationwide health and nutrition survey in 2011-2012, 2013-2014, 2015-2016 and 2017-2020.
Among 2- to 19-year-olds, obesity surged from 17.7% between 2011 and 2012 to 21.5% in the 2017-2020 survey.
During the decade-long span, obesity rates among boys rose from 18% to 21.4%, and among girls from 17% to 21.6%.
While obesity rates rose significantly in preschoolers and teens, they did not among 6- to 11-year-olds.