Nearly a fifth of America’s youth are severely overweight, the latest national data shows. The trend only got worse with millions idling indoors under Covid-19 lockdowns – even as the same policies propel food shortages in the US.

The newest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – derived from a gold-standard health survey in which more than 2,800 children were polled – shows that 19.3 percent of American children aged between 2 and 19 are obese, up by about one percent from the previous national survey, according to the Associated Press.

The newly released data was collected during the most recent survey in 2018. It shows a disturbing upward trend over the past few years, with obesity among kids up by nearly 4 percent since 2006. Severe obesity – defined by the CDC as a body mass index of 40 or higher – has remained at the same level, around 6 percent for several years, however.

With schools closed across the US and tens of millions under stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus pandemic will only amplify the problem, encouraging inactivity and sedentary lifestyles, according to UCLA obesity researcher Dr Tannaz Moin.

“Kids for the most part are at home, and not at school with recess, and getting even less activity,” Moin told AP. “We may see worse trends in the coming years, especially if this pandemic continues the way it is.”

Meanwhile, weight problems may be helping to aggravate the viral outbreak. According to a study published in the Lancet journal this week, obesity is a major comorbidity for Covid-19, and its prevalence in the US could be causing younger people to experience more severe symptoms of the coronavirus.

To make the irony that much worse, the lockdown measures to stop the pandemic have also resulted in mass unemployment and disruptions in food supply, leading to a record surge in food insecurity for American children. As one in five kids struggle with their weight, nearly the same number live in households unable to put enough food on the table, new research from the Brookings Institution found.

Though the study did not delve into the causes for the unprecedented spike in hunger, a number of food processing plants have shuttered due to the virus, while more than 30 million Americans lost their jobs due to the containment measures so far.

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