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Health

If your kids put on weight during the pandemic, they're not alone

child in bike helmet on bike with arms crossed and frowning face stands in front of a playground that is closed off with caution tape.
Mick Haupt
/
Unsplash

Cincinnati Children's expected to see an increase in body mass index for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. When researchers reviewed the data, however, they were surprised by the numbers.

"What we found was a striking increase," reports Bob Siegel, MD, medical director of the Center for Better Health and Nutrition at Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute.

From 2011 to 2020, data showed overweight/obesity rates were relatively stable, increasing about 1.4% over 10 years. In 2021 alone, that number jumped 3.3%.

Researchers say they can draw several conclusions from the data, starting with this: COVID-19 took a heavy toll on Cincinnati-area children. That's especially concerning to medical professionals because unhealthy weight puts kids at an increased risk for having worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19.

The goal now is reversing increases.

"We hope to get kids back to school; we hope to get kids active again; and we hope to get kids eating better again," Siegel outlines. "Those are the problems that we saw during COVID."

Getting children immunized is also vital, he points out.

"It is essential that we get kids and their families immunized for COVID, and in relatively risky situations, wearing masks."

Cincinnati Children's was and remains a clinical test site for COVID vaccines. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children ages five and above. Studies and doctors report it is safe and effective.

Researchers pulled the data for this study from BMI readings taken from electronic medical records of patients treated, or seen for annual well visits, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The findings were presented at The Obesity Society’s annual event ObesityWeek. Additional research on the data is underway.