Closed playgrounds, closed schools, remote learning, no gym class, canceled sports, less exercise, and more snacking are causing American children to gain weight and be at risk for diabetes and asthma, doctors warn.
“We’re seeing a lot of elementary school-aged kids who are gaining 20 to 30 pounds in a year,” Hai Cao, a Brooklyn, N.Y., pediatrician and owner of South Slope Pediatrics in Brooklyn, N.Y. told The Wall Street Journal.
“This is a result of a very crazy year that we’ve had. This is in no way a judgmental reflection on parents.”
The weight gains are worse for children already overweight and those elementary-school aged (6 to 12 years old), according to Staten Island, N.Y., physician assistant Brittany Wilson to the Journal.
“Even kids in grammar school are getting depressed,” Wilson told the paper. “They miss their friends. A lot of them aren’t doing as well academically. With depression also comes weight gain. They’re bored, and I think they’re comfort-eating.”
Schools have tended to help feed children and keep them healthier, according to researchers who have been tracking the heights and weights of tens of thousands of New Jersey children who live in low-income communities since 2008, per the Journal.
“There are all these different elements associated with being in school that are healthy for children, and then COVID happens and all that is taken away,” one of the researchers Michael Yedidia of Rutgers University told the Journal.
Research had already found children gain weight faster over summer vacation than the school year, according to another one of the researchers Punam Ohri-Vachaspati of Arizona State University to the Journal.
“We hypothesize that when the children come back from this ‘extended summer,’ as we’ve been calling it, that they will be heavier or they’ll have a higher likelihood of being overweight or obese,” she told the paper.
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