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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 120-121

Acute surge in the incidence of overweight and obesity in children – A 'Spin-off' epidemic triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Department of Pediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh, India

Date of Submission25-Jan-2022
Date of Decision03-Feb-2022
Date of Acceptance04-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication07-May-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Thirunavukkarasu Arun Babu
Department of Pediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmi.cmi_14_22

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How to cite this article:
Babu TA. Acute surge in the incidence of overweight and obesity in children – A 'Spin-off' epidemic triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Curr Med Issues 2022;20:120-1

How to cite this URL:
Babu TA. Acute surge in the incidence of overweight and obesity in children – A 'Spin-off' epidemic triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Curr Med Issues [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 30];20:120-1. Available from: https://www.cmijournal.org/text.asp?2022/20/2/120/344929

The ongoing novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has gripped the entire world since December 2019. This infection caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus was first reported in December 2019 from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and then spread rapidly to many parts of the world. As the virus started spreading rapidly across continents, the World Health Organization declared this as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and later as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.[1]

Most countries including India imposed varying degrees of repeated lockdowns and travel restrictions in an effort to restrict the spread of COVID-19 infection. In India, curfews have been enforced in most states since late March 2020. Schools across India were forced to switch from physical classes to online modes of education. These lockdowns and travel restrictions enforced children to stay indoors and lead a sedentary lifestyle, reduced social contact, and also caused substantial disruption in their daily routine.[2] This prolonged indoor stay could have a negative bearing on the growing children and significantly affect their growth, development, psychosocial, behavioral well-being, and can also predispose them to develop unhealthy lifestyles and numerous diseases.[2] One such resulting phenomenon is the rapid increase in the incidence of overweight and obesity in children during the COVID-19 pandemic, a finding reported from across the globe including India.[3],[4]

Restriction of movement, inability to indulge in physical outdoor sports activities, monotonous daily routine, sedentary lifestyle, abnormal eating patterns such as increased snacking and craving for junk food and increased screen time due to online mode of education by schools or increased time spent with electronic gadgets due to boredom could have played a significant role in causing excessive weight gain in children during the lockdown.[2],[3] Children are also exposed to television and social media commercials of high calories, junk foods, and beverage products.[2] The net result of these factors is altered behavioral pattern, reduced physical activity, and increased intake of snacks and junk food predisposing them to increased obesity and overweight. Many studies linking these factors to increased weight gain resulting in overweight and obesity in children during this pandemic have been published.[3],[4]

Childhood obesity is a significant noncommunicable disease with multiple and long-term health implications in a growing child. Obesity is often associated with comorbidities such as asthma, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, endocrine problems, gallstones, gastroesophageal reflux, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and psychosocial issues such as body dysmorphic disorder, depression, and anger episodes.[5] Obese children are likely to become obese adults and are at higher risk of developing many medical conditions including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease, and coronary vascular disease during adulthood.[5]

Parents and children should be counseled on healthy lifestyle behaviors, measures to avoid excessive weight gain and should be encouraged to develop healthy eating pattern, appropriate screen time exposure, and daily, mandatory outdoor physical activity.

Our understanding about the increased incidence of overweight and obesity in children during this COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown is still evolving. Most of the available data are based on studies with small samples and have to be interpreted carefully. Hence, it becomes necessary to study the multifactorial effect of COVID-19 lockdown resulting in rapid weight gain in children to understand this complex phenomenon so that preventive strategies to avoid obesity and overweight in children can be developed and advocated.

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  References Top

Adhikari SP, Meng S, Wu YJ, Mao YP, Ye RX, Wang QZ, et al. Epidemiology, causes, clinical manifestation and diagnosis, prevention and control of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the early outbreak period: A scoping review. Infect Dis Poverty 2020;9:29.  Back to cited text no. 1
Browne NT, Snethen JA, Greenberg CS, Frenn M, Kilanowski JF, Gance-Cleveland B, et al. When pandemics collide: The impact of COVID-19 on childhood obesity. J Pediatr Nurs 2021;56:90-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Pietrobelli A, Pecoraro L, Ferruzzi A, Heo M, Faith M, Zoller T, et al. Effects of COVID-19 lockdown on lifestyle behaviors in children with obesity living in Verona, Italy: A longitudinal study. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2020;28:1382-5.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kim K, Han K, Yang S. Association between overweight, obesity and incidence of advanced dental caries in South Korean adults: A 10-year nationwide population-based observational study. PLoS One 2020;15:e0229572.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kansra AR, Lakkunarajah S, Jay MS. Childhood and adolescent obesity: A review. Front Pediatr 2020;8:581461.  Back to cited text no. 5


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