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Obesity Rates Continue steadily to Climb Among U.S. Kids, Teens

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For the very first time ever, a lot 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 and also 12- to 19-year-olds, a fresh analysis of nationwide health survey data shows. And the uptick was true for U.S. kids of each race and ethnic background, in accordance with 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’s a lot more alarming is these data were all collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other data published recently show that kids are gaining a lot more weight due to restrictions with their diet and activity through the pandemic,” she said.

Staiano fears the numbers will undoubtedly be even worse within the next National Health insurance and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Obesity has significant health consequences, she said, from some cancers to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, joint problems, anxiety and depression.

“Kids are bearing the expense of this disease, and adults are spending money on the added healthcare costs of kids growing up with diseases and needing treatment,” Staiano said. “Kids who aren’t eating nutritious diets have a tendency to perform worse in school, therefore obesity affects all areas of a child’s life.”

For the analysis, 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 insurance 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.

Through 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 didn’t among 6- to 11-year-olds.


Overall, obesity rates for kids 2 to 19 rose from 21.8% to 27% among Mexican-Americans; from 19.5% to 23.8% among Black youngsters, and from 15% to 18.4% among white kids, Staiano and Hu found.

To greatly help curb the rising tide of obesity, Staiano said doctors should screen for and monitor obesity and related diseases that affect the heart, lungs and metabolism. But, she added, solving the issue would be the work of American society all together.

“Healthcare providers should provide counseling and evidence-based programs to aid families to look at a wholesome lifestyle,” Staiano said. “Insurance firms should follow the Affordable Care Act to cover these weight reduction services in an effort to prevent debilitating and costly disease.”

Prevention and early treatment are critical so kids gain a wholesome level of weight, she said.

“Parents and kids should speak to their doctors and school nurses to build up a wholesome eating and activity plan that may work with their family,” Staiano said.

“Plenty of weight gain occurs when kids are from school through the summertime, so community leaders and government officials should advocate for feeding programs to supply healthy meals in this out-of-school time also to provide camps and programs with structured activity through the summer,” she said.

Staiano said investments are essential in lifestyle and behavior weight reduction programs, medications, and metabolic and bariatric surgery choices for kids to decelerate their weight gain or help them shed weight in a safe and sustainable way.

“Civic leaders should incentivize food markets and corner stores with balanced diet options to find in food deserts and in addition ensure walking trails and public parks and playgrounds are safe and well maintained,” she added.

Dr. David Katz, an expert in preventive and lifestyle medicine and president of the real Health Initiative in Tulsa, Okla., reviewed the findings.

He said the losing battle against childhood obesity in the us has been waged for a lot more than three decades.

“Stated bluntly, this a national disgrace, because this issue is one with dire consequences that people could fix any moment we genuinely focused on doing this,” Katz said.


Obesity rises relentlessly because whole industries benefit from it, he described.

“The issue worsens because a lot more resources are committed to propagating the issue than in fixing it,” Katz said. “We realize, for instance, that people have a food way to obtain willfully addictive processed foods made to maximize eating, yet make futile tips for ‘portion control’ without addressing the primary cause.”

These new data show that obesity gets worse not mysteriously, but because our society hasn’t made any serious effort to repair it, Katz said.

“We’d be well advised to take care of obesity inside our children once we treat drowning — for, in the end, they’re drowning in the hyper-palatable calories of ultra-processed foods, and in exertion-sparing technologies that proliferate endlessly,” he said.

What’s needed, Katz said, is mandatory training concerning the dangers of overeating rather than exercising, in addition to widespread reminders about healthy eating. He likened these to the countless steps necessary to keep kids safe around water.

“After 30 years of personal devotion to the reason, I wait to note that day dawn for me personally, and for several other parents,” Katz said.

The findings were published online July 25 in JAMA Pediatrics .

More info

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about childhood obesity.

SOURCES: Amanda Staiano, PhD, director, pediatric obesity and health behavior, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge; David Katz, MD, MPH, specialist, preventive and lifestyle medicine, and president, True Health Initiative, Tulsa, Okla.; JAMA Pediatrics, July 25, 2022, online


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