A math teacher friend of mine posted this word problem on Facebook several days ago:

Q. John has 32 candy bars. He eats 28. What does he have now? A. Diabetes. John has diabetes.

That might make you snicker, but this won’t: Diabetes is rising rapidly among U.S. kids, according to a recent report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Type 2 diabetes in children, the type that is often considered preventable, has jumped more than 21 percent in the past decade. If John in the above math problem really did have diabetes, it would most likely be type 2.

If you recall, earlier this year Paula Deen announced that she had type 2 diabetes, and the media and public alike had a field day blaming her weight and overconsumption of unhealthy foods for her illness. No one was surprised, given the foods that Deen cooks on her TV show, that her diet helped contribute to type 2 diabetes. But Deen is an adult, and she has the ability to control her food choices.

Children, however, rarely have control over the foods that are offered to them, and that’s what makes this 21 percent jump in type 2 diabetes in children so scary. Those who make the decisions for them — their parents, caregivers, and schools — are often making poor choices. When you look at the increase in junk food as acceptable meals, the more sedentary lifestyles of today’s children and teens, and the lack of adequate healthy food choices in many areas of the country, the rise in type 2 diabetes is not so surprising.

But the rise in type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that isn’t caused by diet or lack of exercise, is surprising. In the past decade, type 1 diabetes has risen 23 percent in children, an increase that puzzles doctors and scientists.

The food choices that we make for our children are so important. It’s also important to get them off the couch and moving every day. While researchers try to determine why the rates of type 1 diabetes are increasing and what can be done about, parents, caregivers and schools can be actively working to decrease our children’s chances of contracting type 2 diabetes. It’s the one we have some control over. Let’s control it.

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