It is called ‘covibesity’, a term that appeared in the scientific literature to describe the increase in obesity due to the confinement imposed during the pandemic. With the change, for the worse, of eating habits and the reduction of physical activity that led to the doubling (and beyond) of the body mass index in children and young people. Precisely to promote correct eating and lifestyles, the Italian Society of Pediatrics (Sip) has joined the ‘You are not alone’ project promoted by the Eni Foundation, in collaboration with Cisom, Caritas Ambrosiana and the Food Bank Foundation. Within the project, the SIP will promote education campaigns aimed at families, children, with some initiatives in schools, and pediatricians starting from a poster distributed to the 11 thousand pediatricians who adhere to the scientific society.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted on over 432 thousand children and young people between the ages of 2 and 19, the rate of increase in the body mass index (which measures the ratio between weight and height) has doubled compared to in the pre-pandemic period, and in the age group between 6 and 11, it even increased by 2 and a half times, while the percentage of obese children and young people surveyed in the study in a year went from 19.3% to 22.4 %. And those who were already overweight or obese gained over half a kg per month, a growth rate that, transposed into 6 months, means 3-4 kg more: more than double what should be the right weight gain of a healthy child.
For Italian children and adolescents, who already recorded overweight rates of 20.4% and obesity of 9.4% before the pandemic, the picture does not seem to be very different if we consider that several studies have shown an increase consumption of sweets and caloric foods and a sedentary lifestyle, compared to the pre-pandemic period. About 40% of children changed their eating habits during the pandemic, 27% ate more, in particular increasing the consumption of snacks (60.3%), fruit juices (14.0%) and soft drinks (10.4%). On the other hand, the time spent in front of a screen in children between the ages of 6 and 18 increased by about 5 hours a day (thanks to Dad).
“In light of this scenario, it becomes even more important to promote adherence to the recommendations of proper nutrition for children and adolescents because the rampant epidemic of childhood obesity, aggravated by the pandemic, is more silent, but just as dangerous as that generated by Covid. -19 “, says Annamaria Staiano, Sip president and professor of Pediatrics at the Federico II University of Naples.
“In addition to overweight and obesity, various forms of malnutrition have been exacerbated by the pandemic from Covid-19. Just think of eating disorders, which have grown by 30%”, highlights Francesco Chiarelli, president of SIP Abruzzo and director of the Specialization Schools in Pediatrics of Chieti and L’Aquila. “It must be clear – he adds – that maintaining a correct nutritional status is essential for the health of children and adolescents, especially in a period like the current one, in the course of a health emergency”.
But what are the main recommendations for proper nutrition in children and adolescents? “The food model of reference is the Mediterranean diet – remarks Elvira Verduci, national councilor of SIP and professor of Pediatrics at the University of Milan – rich in foods of vegetable origin (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, seeds), characterized by use of olive oil as the main source of added fats and moderate consumption of fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products combined with a reduced consumption of red meat. Several studies on children and adolescents have shown that the adherence to the model is lower Mediterranean and higher is the prevalence of overweight and obesity “.
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