Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

COVID-19 Experience: Worsens Childhood Obesity

Dr. Obvious has come out of COVID-19 self isolation long enough to share a report on a new learned study that makes a connection most of us could – and may already – have made between the lock down and childhood obesity. Is it any surprise to you that self isolation has increased childhood obesity?

Recipe for Obese Kids - © dhawkdesign.comIncreased screen time and decreased physical activity have been
skewered in many previous studies of childhood obesity…

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have published a new study report ‘revealing’ that the COVID-19 lock downs which have been in force across much of the world for more than 3 months now have negatively impacted the already-epidemic situation with childhood obesity.

Dr. Obvious could hardly contain himself when he called me last night to share his incredulity: “Who would have thought that eating more and doing less would result in weight gain?” Seems obvious to me, too, but…

What they did

According to an abstract of the study report: “The researchers surveyed 41 children and teens with obesity in Verona, Italy, who were involved in an ongoing long-term study. Lifestyle information regarding diet, activity and sleep was collected three weeks into Italy’s mandatory national lock down and compared to data on the children gathered in 2019. Questions focused on physical activity, screen time, sleep, eating habits, and the consumption of red meat, pasta, snacks, fruits and vegetables.”

What they found

“The results confirmed the negative change in behavior, indicating that children with obesity fare worse on weight control lifestyle programs while at home compared to when they are engaged in their school curriculum.

“Depending on the duration of the lockdown, the excess weight gained may not be easily reversible and might contribute to obesity during adulthood if healthier behaviors are not re-established,” says Faith. “This is because childhood and adolescent obesity tend to track over time and predict weight status as adults.”

The takeaway

“Government officials and policymakers should consider the potential harmful effects of lock downs on youths with obesity when making decisions regarding when and how to loosen restrictions,” says Dr.Myles Faith, Co-Author of the report. “There is also a need to establish and evaluate telemedicine programs that encourage families to maintain healthy lifestyle choices during periods of lock down.”

My take

It’s obvious that kids will gain weight if they stay home from school – where there are organized and mandated periods of activity in their daily schedules – and don’t expend energy like they usually do moving between classes and carrying out other school-related activities.

Multitudes of previous studies have already proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that kids who get less exercise and more screen time tend to be heavier and – by association – less healthy than active kids, especially those who play organized sports or take dance lessons or engage in similar programs. Some also still walk, or ride their bikes, to and from school. Except when they’re in a pandemic-mandated lock down, of course.

Only 41 obese kids involved in the study? That’s an almost vanishingly small subject cohort. Would the findings even be statistically valid? If not, then the study didn’t really ‘confirm’ anything, did it? Except that the report authors got a paper published. With the current lock downs, it might be getting harder for learned investigators to stay current with their credits. As the old saying goes: “Publish or Perish!” They need to get their names in the journals regularly or face career ruination.

I’ve asked the obvious questions before, and I feel compelled to ask them again: Why did we need the University of Buffalo study, anyway? Who paid for it? Dr. Obvious and other inquiring minds want to know…

~ Maggie J.