Childhood and adolescent obesity rates rebound with the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the prevalence figures for childhood obesity in Spain, which were already worrying before the exceptional situation created by the virus. Lockdowns and mobility restrictions have led to a significant weight gain in the Spanish population, including children, and this problem will have important repercussions in the future if it is not remedied, as has been warned by the Spanish Society of Obesity (SEEDO), which calls for a national plan to tackle it, with the involvement of different ministries.

The Aladino study, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, showed that in 2019 the prevalence of overweight in the Spanish child population aged 6 to 9 was 23.3% and that of obesity was 17.3%. In addition, within this last group, 4.2% of the schoolchildren studied had severe obesity, data that were bad, but that reflected a certain stabilization. However, specialists have detected a significant spike in child and adolescent obesity rates after the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus.

Of obese adolescents, 80% become obese adults.

The SEEDO has referred in a statement to a recent study of the Qustodio family digital security and well-being platform, which confirms the causes of this increase. Among others, are factors such as longer screen time, changes in eating habits, as well as less time for physical activity. According to the report, 30% of children spend less than an hour a day outdoors, and approximately 72% do less physical activity than before the pandemic.

“The last study we have prepandemic on childhood obesity placed children between 6 and 9 years with inappropriate weight rates at 40%In other words, they were extremely worrying figures. Above all, taking into account that of obese adolescents, 80% become obese adults “, the doctor explains to Francisco Tinahones, president of the Spanish Obesity Society, who makes it clear that “there are numerous studies that have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced an increase in weight in practically all families, both in adults and children.”

F. Tinahones (SEEDO): Spain recognizes obesity as a disease, but does not treat it as such.

Far from considering it solely as an aesthetic problem, SEEDO has asked once again that obesity is identified as a “chronic” disease, since it is a health problem that affects 23% of Spaniards, and almost half of their child and adolescent population. “Our country recognizes obesity as a disease, but does not treat it as such. For example, new drugs are emerging that are effective against obesity, but are not paid for by the public system, while it does for other pathologies such as diabetes or hypertension, “compares Tinahones.

Origin of multiple pathologies

Obesity is a pathology that significantly deteriorates the quality of life of those who suffer from it and in turn becomes the source of multiple diseasessuch as type 2 diabetes, which is almost exclusively associated with being overweight. In addition, these ailments increasingly affect young people.

“We were not used to seeing these situations so early. Obesity hurts as the burden of disease increases, that is, the years that pass being obese. If they start with obesity from such a young age and later as adults remain obese, probably obesity-associated diseases we will see appear very early. we are beginning to see type 2 diabetes in very young adults and even adolescents, something that was absolutely unusual 20 years ago “, describes the president of SEEDO.

To stop this growing problem, specialists have claimed a national plan that addresses this “chronic” pathology in a transversal way, as has been done successfully in other European countries, and that involves ministries that have competence in issues such as education, advertising, taxation, drug financing, food labeling and even urban planning, “to design healthy cities that encourage physical activity.”

“Specific measures, such as limiting certain advertising, if they do not go in the context of a national plan, are like a drop of water in an ocean, and they will not have a significant impact on the problem of childhood obesity like that of adults. It is necessary to involve more areas “, declares Francisco Tinahones in this regard.

72% of Spanish children now perform less physical activity than before the pandemic. GETTY IMAGES

Why is obesity increasing?

Asked about the reasons for this increase in weight during the last decades of the population, both adults and children, this endocrinologist believes that there has been “a very important change in the Spanish lifestyle”, since “we have increased caloric intake, with foods that have a higher caloric content every time, which are the ones that are globalizing, because they are cheaper, easier to prepare and to get; and they are cornering traditional Mediterranean cuisine , which is made with local and healthier products “.

F. Tinahones (SEEDO): Se it is cornering traditional Mediterranean cuisine.

Tinahones also indicates that physical activity has decreased “in a very important way”, a decrease that in the case of children has occurred “in an exponential way”. Likewise, it points to the emergence of other factors, associated with the contemporary lifestyle, more related to illnesses of a mental nature, which “are now more prevalent”, such as stress, depression, anxiety, anguish …

“Mental illness is globalizing to all stages of life, and children with depressive problems, or stress, are also much more likely to be obese, “he says, without forgetting the importance of adequate rest, since” children with fewer hours of sleep are also more likely to be obese “.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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