Michelle Rupp: Joining me now is Dr. Chad Rodgers, AFMC’s chief medical officer, and pediatrician. Good morning, Dr. Chad!

Dr. Chad Rodgers: Good morning, how are you?

MR: I’m well. Thank you for coming in today. So, some stunning news came out in early June that there was a rise, and I want to make sure that I say it correctly, there was a rise in Type 2 Diabetes in children. That number doubled as a result, or maybe not as a result, but has doubled within the last year, and the pandemic has happened in the last year. So maybe it’s doubled as a result of the pandemic. That has to be shocking as a pediatrician to read those headlines.

CR: Yeah. You know, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me. During the pandemic, I began to see that everybody was staying at home, and the sports were shut down. People were not as active. We saw a lot of weight gain in our kids that we see in the clinic at every visit. You know, we took a height and weight and just consistently was saying about a 15-pound, 19, 20-pound weight gain. I began to talk to other pediatricians about it, and then they start to look at it even closer to see if this was just, you know, an Arkansas trend. This is a national trend. And of course, increasing weight increases the possibility that you’re going to develop Type 2 Diabetes. Your blood sugar will be a little bit higher; your cholesterol is going to go up. So, a lot of effects from the pandemic that we didn’t expect at the beginning.

MR: So, when a parent hears their child at the sweet tender age of, I don’t know, 7,8,9, 10 now has Type 2 Diabetes, can you reverse that or is that kind of like and here’s your life now until you pass away?

CR: Yeah. So, this is one of the reasons I went into pediatrics because there are many things that you can do to intervene. So, at those visits are going to get your height and weight checked. If you’re kind of trending up, you should get your blood sugar checked. The good thing for kids is that they’re still growing and developing. One of the ways that you can lower your blood sugar is through exercise. Kids are growing taller, which is to their benefit. Sometimes they can grow into the weight, or they could even lose weight or just by becoming more active. Kids can lose weight more quickly than adults lose weight. You begin to look at what their diet looks like and how much sugar they are consuming. And I love how people say “hidden sugars.” They’re not hidden. You look at the back of the label. You can see the sugar, high fructose corn syrup, which is a really concentrated sugar. So, many interventions can take place early on. They can lower their weight, lower their blood sugar and maybe postpone diabetes or the effects of diabetes for years. But many people, even adults, just losing weight and exercising can lower their blood sugar and decrease their possibility of going on and having lifelong diabetes.

MR: Okay, so it’s not necessarily something permanent, but it will be something that you have to stay on top of.

CR: Right? Exactly. Because if the weight comes back, your sugars will probably go back up, and you’re going to go into that diabetic phase.

MR: What do you say to parents? How can they help fight childhood obesity?

CR: So, we talked about this earlier, you know, it’s a family thing. It’s not just one person. If one person in the family has high blood sugar, one person has high cholesterol. It’s a whole family effort for the whole family to eat a diabetic diet to lower blood sugar. I think that’s something you have to do. I think there’s something we have to do as a community, as a culture. Increase physical activity. Increase opportunities and access to safe places to exercise. Ensure that our kids have access to healthy foods and are not so high in sugar and fats. Avoid processed foods and eat more fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. These things will help control your body’s sugar for your lifetime.

MR: Because the sugar you get in an orange or an apple or a banana is completely different than the sugar you’re going to get in ice cream, soda pop, or candy.

CR: The first step you can do is just start to look for high fructose corn syrup. It is concentrated sugar that goes quickly into the cells of our body, where we store fat. And so you know if you’re looking for a first step, that’s the one. The second one is to start to increase your physical activity. You know, just get out and walk. Okay?

MR: All right, Dr. Chad. Thank you so much as always, love having you here.