A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics reported that the obesity rate among children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 years old has risen to nearly 22 percent from 2011 to 2020 in the United States.1 2
Obesity Up Among Children of All Races and Ethnic Groups
The study compared rates of obesity for children between two and five years of age and adolescents from 12 to 19 years old from data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during the years 2011 to 2012 and again from 2017 to 2020. The survey included 15,000 children and adolescents. The data showed that obesity among children increased across every race and ethnic background over a decade.3
Amanda Staiano, PhD., an investigator in the study said:
The proportion of kids having obesity increased from 18% in the 2011 cycle to 22% in the 2020 cycle. What is even more alarming is these data were all collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other data published recently show that kids are gaining even more weight because of restrictions to their diet and activity during the pandemic.4
COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown policies exacerbated the obesity rates even more.5 Ihuoma Eneli, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said that social distancing and lockdown policies implemented during the first half of 2020 may have compounded the problem of childhood obesity and further widened the “racial/ethnic disparities” with respect to obesity.6
The study showed that in Alabama, one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 suffer from obesity. The Alabama Department of Health said that the rate of obesity in the state is increasing but that changes in lifestyle behaviors can slow it down.7
Wes Stubblefield, MD, District Medical Office in Alabama said:
One is to increase fresh fruits and vegetables. We recommend five servings a day. No more than two hours of screen time per day. We recommend one hour of physical activity a day. We recommend that children do not consume sugar-sweetened beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages are a sneaky-calorie source. So, we’re trying to regulate how much is coming in and going out.8
America May Be Losing Battle Against Childhood Obesity
Some medical professionals believe that the increase in obesity rates is primarily driven by a food industry that profits from selling unhealthy foods. David Katz, MD, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine and president of the True Health Initiative in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said that obesity rates are increasing among children because the nation is not committed to tackling the problem.9 He said:
Stated bluntly, this a national disgrace, because this problem is one with dire consequences that we could fix any time we genuinely committed to doing so. The problem worsens because far more resources are invested in propagating the problem than in fixing it. We know, for instance, that we have a food supply of willfully addictive junk food designed to maximize eating, yet make futile recommendations for ‘portion control’ without addressing the root cause.10
Dr. Katz believes that obesity rates are not increasing mysteriously but are a direct result of the U.S. making no effort to address the root cause of the problem.11
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1 Reinberg S. Obesity rates among U.S. children climb past 20%. US News & World Report July 25, 2022.
2 Hu K, Staiano A. Trends in Obesity Prevalence Among Children and Adolescents Aged 2 to 19 Years in the US From 2011 to 2020 JAMA Pediatrics July 25, 2022.
3 Reinberg S. Obesity rates among U.S. children climb past 20%. US News & World Report July 25, 2022.
5 Cáceres M. Childhood Obesity Epidemic Made Worse by Social Distancing Policies The Vaccine Reaction May. 8, 2022.
7 Chatman B. Childhood obesity rates reach 20% in Alabama WTVY July 26. 2022.
9 Reinberg S. Obesity rates among U.S. children climb past 20%. US News & World Report July 25, 2022.