October 07, 2022
2 min read
Mainville R, et al. Examining the effects of COVID-19 lifestyle on pediatric BMI. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Oct. 7-Oct.11, 2022; Anaheim, Calif.
Harrington and Mainville report no relevant financial disclosures.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — A study found a significant increase in BMI among children seen during well visits at a hospital in Virginia in the initial year of the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably among Black females.
Rylie N. Mainville, a third-year MD student at Eastern Virginia Medical School, told Healio in an interview that after being accepted to her school’s summer scholars program last year, she wanted to take on “a current issue.”
Mainville presented data from the study at the AAP Annual Conference & Exhibition.
“I wanted to see not just how … COVID-19 affects children — because that’s a whole other beast — but how this pandemic lifestyle, being at home instead of school and all the things that go into that, how that is affecting children,” Mainville said. “How is that affecting childhood obesity in America in general?”
Mainville and colleagues enrolled 238 patients — a majority of them Black — during well visits at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. The patients were aged between 4 and 17 years, with 51% identifying as female and 49% as male.
The researchers recorded the patients’ BMIs over the course of two visits in 1 year. They asked patients about changes in their water and fruit intake, screen time, time spent with family and other factors.
Ultimately, during a period from the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown to May 2021, the children’s BMIs increased significantly, and the increase was more significant for females, with an 11-percentage point mean increase compared with their male peers.
The results, Mainville said, did not leave her “that surprised.”
“We were expecting that kids were eating,” Mainville said. “They weren’t at school, they weren’t interacting with other kids or their teachers or going to gym classes. [There were no] school-prepared lunches, and everyone is at home together and super stressed out. And what do people do when they’re super stressed out? Eat comfort food, and that’s not usually good for you.”
The authors also observed a correlation between screen time and family time increases during the pandemic and rising BMIs because families spent more time at home due to the lockdowns.
John Harrington, MD, division director of general academic pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, served as Mainville’s mentor and is a co-author on the project. Harrington described the importance of regional studies like this one in a Healio interview.
“These types of studies that are more granular and more related to your direct population are something more impactful to learning and teaching you about what you need to do in your areas,” Harrington said. “They may not always be generalizable, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not important.”
Increase seen in pediatric BMI during pandemic, study finds. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/966500. Published Oct. 7, 2022. Accessed Oct. 7, 2022.