The changed everyday life in the corona pandemic is also noticeable in nutrition: while many people attach great importance to a balanced diet even in lockdown, others manage it worse. Some people eat chips and soda instead of a warm lunch at school or regular pasta with pesto from the glass – and others even eat more fruit, vegetables and freshly cooked food instead of currywurst and chips in the canteen. The main victims could be children from families with a low level of education, says the nutrition expert Astrid Donalies from the German Nutrition Society: “It is becoming clear that the gap is widening.”
In educationally disadvantaged families and with lower incomes, there is often a lack of knowledge of how to eat healthily. For many of the children from these families, eating in daycare centers and schools is therefore particularly important. “There are children who get the only balanced meal a day at school or daycare,” says Donalies. The risk is confirmed by a representative survey of around 1,000 families: a good quarter of all parents and 9 percent of those under the age of 14 had put on weight in the course of the pandemic. Among the over 10-year-olds from families with low school-leaving qualifications, it was even 23 percent, like the experts in the study published in the journal “Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism” write.
“The kids sit around more at home. Sometimes they move less and snack more, ”explains author Hans Hauner, professor of nutritional medicine at the Technical University of Munich. Some of the children in the families surveyed ate more fruit and vegetables than before the pandemic. About a fifth of all children also reached for chocolate, chips and soda more often. Children over 10 years of age in particular consumed sweet and salty snacks more often.
It has been shown that many children have been living less healthily since the beginning of the corona pandemic also a nationwide study by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf on the mental health and well-being of 7 to 17 year olds. To this end, the research team surveyed more than 1,000 children and young people and more than 1,600 parents from mid-December 2020 to mid-January 2021. After that, many children and adolescents ate an unhealthy diet with lots of sweets, ten times more children than before the pandemic did not do any sport at all.
The nutritionist Hauner therefore fears that the corona crisis could exacerbate the problem of pathological obesity in children and adolescents – with possible long-term consequences. “Studies show that around 80 percent of obese adolescents remain obese in later adulthood,” says Donalies. And they then have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases.
The psychosomatic children’s ward of the Nuremberg Clinic reports another consequence of the pandemic: the specialists have treated significantly more children and adolescents with eating disorders since the end of the first lockdown. “There are about twice as many as usual,” says chief physician Patrick Nonell. “Anorexia stands out in particular.”