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Horowitz: New study shows massive increase in childhood obesity since lockdowns

Op-ed
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The 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to vulnerability to SARS-CoV-2 (and most other dangerous ailments and diseases) is obesity. Eating healthy and bolstering our immune systems are the ultimate vaccine against most of the ailments that plague this society. We've had 18 months for the health establishment and the government to offer such a message at a time when people's fears would likely have made them receptive to it. Instead, they have locked people down, abolished children's sports, depleted vitamin D levels, and, worst of all, induced the worst obesity crisis in American history.

Last week, researchers from the University of Michigan and Kaiser Permanente published a study in JAMA showing that not only did adults gain significant weight during the lockdown but even young children packed on the pounds. Using Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) electronic health record data of children during and before the pandemic, they found astonishing increases in obesity among the youngest children.

"Overweight or obesity increased among 5- through 11-year-olds from 36.2% to 45.7% during the pandemic, an absolute increase of 8.7% and relative increase of 23.8% compared with the reference period (Table)," wrote the authors. "The absolute increase in overweight or obesity was 5.2% among 12- through 15-year-olds (relative increase, 13.4%) and 3.1% (relative increase, 8.3%) among 16- through 17-year-olds."

This finding is as tragic as it was predictable. Locking down children at home and ending children's sports resulting in giving our lowest-risk group an outsized increase of the greatest risk factor for COVID complications and so much more. The amount of diabetes and heart disease that will cascade from this fatal policy mistake is immeasurable.

There is already a lot of data suggesting a surge in obesity among young adults. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 61% experienced undesired weight gains during the COVID panic of the past year, with the average weight gain being a whopping 29 pounds. Millennials reported gaining an average of 41 pounds.

A CDC study from March found "A J-shaped (nonlinear) relationship was observed between continuous BMI and risk" of three outcomes: ICU admissions, ventilation, and death. Overall, 78% of the people in the study sample who were hospitalized with COVID-19 were overweight or obese. Thus, we took a younger population that was largely unaffected by this virus and made a great many more of them vulnerable through excess weight gain.

What we have done in making our kids couch potatoes is criminal. Most schools systems in America abolished even outdoor sports, where kids get exercise and vitamin D while also maintaining a low risk of transmission. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health published a mental health survey among high school athletes last July that found that approximately 68% of the 3,243 student-athletes surveyed reported feelings of anxiety and depression at levels that would typically require medical intervention.

In October, that same department published a survey comparing those in Wisconsin who participated in sports to those who did not and found that 80% of those who participated felt zero anxiety in their lives compared to just 26.4% who did not play a sport in the fall. Just 6.6% of those who played felt moderate or severe anxiety compared to 44.1% who did not! Also, nearly twice as many students who played sports reported experiencing no or minimal depression as among those who did not participate in youth sports.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that lack of sports, closure of schools, and increased anxiety will lead to more juvenile obesity.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our government took a look at Japan's low COVID mortality and drew the exact wrong conclusion. Rather than trying to adopt their healthy lifestyle and diet, which leads to much less inflammation, they copied their ridiculous culture of masking. Despite near-universal mask-wearing for a year and a half, cases have skyrocketed throughout the country.

Thus, masks completely failed to stop transmission of the virus; it's just that the Japanese are much healthier and can get through the pandemic with a fraction of the deaths. While there might be a few reasons for this dichotomy, the fact that our obesity rate is 8.5 times that of Japan's is an unmistakable culprit.

Sadly, the bill for the lockdowns will continue to come due for the rest of our lives. Increase in diabetes and heart disease is but one of the steep costs.
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