Vulnerability and Weaknesses of Eating Habits of Overweight School Children as an Entry Risk for COVID-19
BACKGROUND: In developing countries, overweight among children becomes an alarming problem and a health concern. Obesity is a factor in disease severity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) having the greatest impact on patients.
AIM: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of overweight in some of the Egyptian governmental primary school children, its nutritional and socioeconomic determinants. Special focus was directed to identify the current dietary practices including risky nutritional habits of overweight children as a weak point leading to increasing their vulnerability to catching COVID-19 infection.
METHODS: A cross-sectional observational study was conducted on primary school children aged 6–12 years. General demographic data, socioeconomic data, dietary pattern, intake of a diversity of nutrient-rich food versus calorie-dense food, and anthropometrical data were collected.
RESULTS: Of 1600 child, there were 8% overweight who are considered at risk of COVID-19 infection. Considering the weekly share of the stomach, only one-third of the food consumed by overweight children is nutrient-rich, with high consumption of French fries and Candies (once per day among 95% and 78 % of overweight children, respectively). Moreover, 90% of them consume sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) more than once per day. The majority of overweight children belonged to small, middle- income families, and had illiterate or read and write mothers.
CONCLUSION: Overweight children eat narrow diversity of nutrient-rich food that includes vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy products. They eat more calorie-dense foods, every day. The increase of family income increased the likelihood of having overweight children with a high intake of SSB, candies, and chips; consumption of snacks between meals and before sleep. Protective predictors against overweight were highly educated mothers, taking breakfast before school, having dinner, and taking meals on time.
RECOMMENDATION: Nutritional behavioral education aiming at choosing nutritious and varied options of food that is effective for improving children’s nutritional status is the key to decreasing vulnerability toward COVID 19.
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