Body mass index (BMI) rates among children rose sharply during the pandemic, according to a study published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The longitudinal cohort study of 432,302 children ages 2-19 years old is the largest and first geographically diverse analysis of the pandemic’s impact on BMI.
Data were obtained from IQVIA’s Ambulatory Electronic Medical Records database of de-identified information from 800 health systems and hospitals. It included data on patients whose BMI had been recorded at least twice during outpatient visits before the pandemic (including once between March 1, 2019, and Feb. 29, 2020) and at least once between June 1 and Nov. 30, 2020.
In all BMI categories except underweight, children experienced “significant increases in their rate of BMI change during the pandemic,” according to the report. In addition, children who had overweight or obesity prior to the pandemic had higher rates of BMI increase and greater weight gain during the pandemic than those with healthy weight.
“During March–November 2020, persons with moderate or severe obesity gained on average 1.0 and 1.2 pounds per month, respectively,” the authors wrote. “Weight gain at this rate over 6 months is estimated to result in 6.1 and 7.6 pounds, respectively, compared with 2.7 pounds in a person with healthy weight.”
Other findings included: