More obese children in Germany – SWR knowledge

During the corona pandemic, 16 percent of children became obese, while exercising less, using cell phones and computers much more intensively, and eating more candy.















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The data were determined using a representative forsa survey of 1,000 parents, which has now been presented. The study was commissioned by the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the Elke Kröner Fresenius Center at the Technical University of Munich. Experts are concerned about the new data.

Little exercise, increased media consumption and very unhealthy food

Media consumption in leisure time among children and young people between the ages of six and 16 has increased by 70 percent. An unhealthy eating behavior could also be observed, the double intake of unhealthy or sweetened snacks. In addition, many children have moved less, their physical condition has decreased.

Dr Susann Weihrauch-Blüher is chief physician at Halle an der Saale University Children’s Hospital. She is an expert in obesity in children and adolescents and has scientifically evaluated the parent study. The research team compared the current data with a previous study – and came to a sober conclusion:

“It simply came to our notice then. It was already examined or questioned in the first study in 2020, and we have now seen very clearly that these patterns have been established and even increased over time. ”



Less exercise, more unhealthy food, the corona pandemic and the measures associated with it have contributed to an unhealthy lifestyle for many children.


IMAGO



imago pictures / MiS


High blood pressure, fatty liver and type 2 diabetes as comorbidities

Susann Weihrauch-Blüher warns that the consequences will become apparent over the next few years. Children are increasingly affected by sequelae at a young age: High blood pressure, fatty liver or decreased sugar metabolism are diagnosed more often and more frequently – all the way up to type 2 diabetes, which usually only occurs in older people.

According to the Weihrauch-Blüher, such diseases are increasingly being observed in younger children. That was not the case ten or twenty years ago. According to the pediatrician, this is a development that will definitely keep us busy for the next few years and will also challenge our healthcare system.



More and more children are being affected by type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure at a young age.  This could have been avoided with a healthier lifestyle.  (Photo: IMAGO, imago bilder / YAY Images)

More and more children are being affected by type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure at a young age. This could have been avoided with a healthier lifestyle.


IMAGO



imago images / YAY images


Children from socially disadvantaged families are more likely to be affected

Especially the children, who already before the pandemic weighed too many kilos, have gained even more weight. Social background plays a key role here: Children and young people from low-income families were twice as likely to be overweight during the pandemic as children from wealthy families.

In poorer families, exercise and physical fitness also declined markedly more; at the same time, the children were mentally stressed by the pandemic. Only in the case of increased media use did family income play no role.

Age from ten to twelve years especially affected due to hormonal changes

The evaluation of the data revealed another important influencing factor: the age of the children. Obesity and many other negative developments were particularly pronounced among 10-12 year olds. Among other things, media use is significantly increasing in this age group, and food is also chosen more independently.

In addition, many children reach puberty between the ages of 10 and 12 – a phase that is accompanied by hormonal changes that can also promote weight gain.



Media consumption among children and young people has increased significantly during the corona pandemic.  (Photo: IMAGO, imago images / Shotshop)

Media consumption among children and young people has increased significantly during the corona pandemic.


IMAGO



imago pictures / Shotshop


Too little help for children

When children become overweight, they quickly need competent help. It demands Susann Weihrauch-Blüher of the German obesity company. She criticizes that there are too few offers for this in Germany – and that health insurance companies often refuse to pay for obesity treatment for children. Early intervention, if possible in the first years of school, is essential:

In this phase, children are still growing in length. This means that simply by stabilizing your weight over a longer period of time, you can optimize your body composition and reduce or even counteract overweight. Later, with children who have grown up, this is no longer possible. Here, a weight reduction is actually necessary – and it is far more difficult than just keeping the weight off.

The German Obesity Society has other requirements for the health of more children, for example:

  • restrictions on the advertising of unhealthy foods,
  • a tax on soft drinks –
  • and better school food.


There have been some efforts to provide children with better school food.  But in many places this fails because of bureaucracy.  (Photo: IMAGO, imago / Florian Gaertner)

There have been some efforts to provide children with better school food. But in many places this fails because of the bureaucracy.


IMAGO



image / Florian Gaertner


Experts call for more movement in kindergartens and schools

According to DAG, there must also be more state subsidies for better school food. Susann Weihrauch-Blüher emphasizes that more exercise in kindergartens and schools would also be important, especially after two years of the pandemic: it does not mean a school sports lesson, but simply taking active breaks and integrating active games.

This requirement did not turn into anything for many different reasons because in some cases it simply cannot be implemented because it has been decided at state level, etc. But from DAG’s point of view, it would be a very important point.

“If you could offer every child at least 60 minutes of active movement time every day, I think you could take a lot of countermeasures.”

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