Every sixth child in Germany has become fatter during the Covid 19 pandemic. That’s according to a Forsa survey of parents released today. Experts are now calling for a whole package of measures consisting of a sugar tax, bans on advertising for unhealthy products and strengthening obesity therapy.

The representative parent survey was presented by the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the Else Kröner-Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine (EKFZ) at the Technical University of Munich. Almost half of the children and young people move less than before and a quarter eat more sweets. Ten to twelve year olds are particularly affected: every third child in this age group has become fatter.

The authors suspect that media use also seems to have changed over the long term. 70 percent of children have been spending more time in front of screens since the pandemic broke out and the lockdowns were imposed. Physical fitness has deteriorated in 33 percent. At 43 percent, children from low-income families are significantly more affected than children from high-income families (25 percent).

“We have never seen weight gain to the extent that we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Susann Weihrauch-Blüher, senior physician at the University Children’s Hospital Halle/Salle and DAG spokeswoman. Even before the pandemic began, 15 percent of children and adolescents were overweight. Every second child of them has become fatter. Doctors warn of health consequences such as high blood pressure, fatty liver and diabetes.

Children and young people also suffer more often from psychological consequences. According to their parents, almost half of the ten to twelve-year-olds were “moderately” or “strongly” affected by the pandemic, and children from low-income families were more than twice as “strongly” affected. The corona crisis has thus exacerbated health inequalities.

“The consequences of the pandemic must be absorbed, otherwise the corona kilos will boomerang for the health of an entire generation,” said Hans Hauner, EKFZ director and DAG board member. The researchers call for a “Marshall Plan for Child Health” with a strengthening of obesity therapy, which is chronically underfunded in Germany. Covering the costs of treatments must become the rule and not remain the exception.

The specialist society is demanding an effective advertising ban for unhealthy foods, a VAT exemption for vegetables, fruit and legumes and a sugar tax for sweet drinks based on the British model from Food Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens). The parents call on the experts to “recognize the seriousness of the situation” and lead a healthy lifestyle.