Pandemic Tied to Greater Weight Gain in Youths 10 to 12 Years Old

In HealthDay News
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Effects of the pandemic on weight gain were most pronounced in low-income youth

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) — There were significantly greater increases in body mass index (BMI) over time in 10- to 12-year-old youth during the COVID-19 pandemic versus before the pandemic, according to a research letter published online Aug. 14 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Samantha S. Betts, from University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues compared weight gain of participants (one- and two-year follow-up assessments acquired before March 2020) to weight gain of participants whose two-year follow-up occurred after the COVID-19 lockdown. The analysis included participants (aged 10 to 12 years) in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (6,359 participants prepandemic and 1,095 intrapandemic).

The researchers found that the pandemic was associated with greater longitudinal increases in BMI in both male and female participants. Female youth assessed during the pandemic gained a mean of 6.8 kg per year — 11.2 percent more than prepandemic female youth who gained 6.1 kg per year — while among male youth, mean weight gain increased by 15.9 percent (from 5.7 to 6.6 kg per year). Among female participants, group × time interactions were moderated by income-to-needs ratio, although the magnitude of association decreased with higher family income. For youth from upper-income families, rates of weight gain were similar among girls in the intrapandemic and prepandemic periods, while the pandemic was associated with a 1.5-kg (24 percent) increase in annual weight gain in female youth from lower-income families.

“Our results highlight the need to prioritize research and support for disadvantaged families who were most severely impacted by COVID-19,” the authors write.

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