During the Corona pandemic, 16 percent of children became fatter, at the same time they exercised less, used cell phones and computers more intensively and ate more sweets.
Data were determined using a representative survey of 1000 parents, which has now been presented. The survey was carried out by the German Obesity Association (DAG) and the Elke Kröner Fresenius Center at the Technical University of Munich. Experts are concerned about the new data.
Lack of exercise, increased media consumption, and too many unhealthy foods
Leisure-time media consumption among children and youth aged 6-16 increased by 70 percent. Unhealthy eating behavior, which is eating unhealthy or sweetened snacks twice as much, can also be observed. In addition, children have decreased mobility, and their physical fitness has decreased.
Dr. Susanne Wehrauch-Bloeher is a senior physician at the University Children’s Hospital Halle an der Salle. She is an expert on childhood and adolescent obesity and has scientifically evaluated a parent survey. The research team compared the current data to a previous survey – and came to a realistic conclusion:
Hypertension, fatty liver and type 2 diabetes as comorbidities
Susan Wehrauch warns Bloeher that the consequences will emerge in the next few years. Children are increasingly affected by concomitant diseases at an early age: hypertension, fatty liver or impaired sugar metabolism are often diagnosed – up to type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs only in the elderly.
According to Weihrauch-Blüher, such pathologies are increasingly observed in young children. This was not the case ten or twenty years ago. According to the pediatrician, this is a development that will surely occupy us for the next few years and will challenge our health system as well.
Children from socially disadvantaged families are more likely to be affected
Children in particular, who already weighed quite a few kilograms before the pandemic, are gaining more weight. Social background plays a major role here: children and young people from low-income families were twice as likely to be overweight during the epidemic as children from wealthy families.
In poor families, exercise and physical fitness decreased significantly; At the same time, children were suffering from mental stress due to the pandemic. Only in the case of increased media use did household income play any role.
Age from ten to twelve years is particularly affected by hormonal changes
Evaluation of the data revealed another important influencing factor: the age of the children. Obesity and many other negative developments were particularly evident among 10 to 12 year olds. Among other things, media use is increasing significantly in this age group, and food selection is also made more independently.
In addition, many children reach puberty between the ages of 10 and 12 – a phase accompanied by hormonal changes that can also promote weight gain.
A little help for the kids
When children become obese, they need professional help quickly. This is what Susanne Wehrauch-Blüher of the German Obesity Association claims. She criticizes the lack of offers in Germany – and that health insurance companies often refuse to pay for obesity treatment for children. Early intervention, if possible in the early years of school, is critical:
At this stage, babies are still growing in length. This means that simply by stabilizing your weight over a longer period of time, you can improve your body composition and reduce or even combat obesity. Later, with the children who grew up, this was no longer possible. Here, it is really necessary to lose weight – and this is much more difficult than simply maintaining weight.
The German Obesity Society has other demands for more child health, for example:
- restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods,
- tax on soft drinks
- And better school lunches.
Experts call for more movement in kindergartens and schools
According to the DAG, more government subsidies for better school meals should also be made available. Susanne Wehrauch-Bloher stresses that more exercise in kindergarten and schools will also be important, especially two years after the pandemic: this does not mean a math lesson at school, but simply taking active breaks and incorporating active games.
This request didn’t work for many different reasons, because in some cases it can’t be implemented simply because it’s set at the state level, etc. But from the point of view of the DAG, this would be a very important point.