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BMI Up in 3-, 4-Year-Olds in Sweden During COVID-19 Pandemic

Risk for obesity higher for children in areas of low socioeconomic status

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) — There was an increase in body mass index (BMI) in 3- and 4-year-olds in Sweden during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Dec. 8 in the European Journal of Public Health.

Anna Fäldt, M.D., from Uppsala University in Sweden, and colleagues examined changes in BMI among preschool children in Sweden before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in a retrospective population-based cross-sectional study. Data were included for 25,049 children from three Swedish regions, with growth measures at 3, 4, and 5 years of age (16,237, 14,437, and 11,711 children, respectively).

The researchers found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in BMI in children aged 3 and 4 years. In 3-year-old girls, obesity increased from 2.8 to 3.9 percent. Increases in obesity and overweight (girls) were seen in 4-year-olds, while the prevalence of underweight decreased among boys. In 5-year-olds, there was no change noted in BMI. A higher risk for obesity was seen for children in areas of low socioeconomic status.

“Although Sweden didn’t have a lockdown in the same way as many other countries during the pandemic, the incidence of overweight and obesity increased in 3- and 4-year-olds, and even at such a young age, the socioeconomic differences are evident,” a coauthor said in a statement. “The study highlights the need for further efforts and interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity, especially in areas of lower socioeconomic status.”

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