Kids, Holidays, and Sugar (Pedcast)

Doc Smo here. Thank you for joining me today. I am fortunate to have many patients who are new immigrants to the the US.  I care for the children of many families who, just a few years ago, lived in India, China, Taiwan, Iran, France, Germany, and the UK just to mention a few. Charlotte is becoming a very diverse place, with it’s rapid growth. It is definitely not the little sleepy southern town I moved to 33 years ago. I was talking to a mother from Taiwan the other day, which happened to be a few days before Easter. She made the comment that holidays in America are very different from those she experienced where she grew up. Here, holiday always means lots of candy and sweets. When she was a child, that just wasn’t true.  Here ,every holiday is an excuse to have candy, soda, cake, ice cream etc etc. She had also noticed that children are rewarded in America for every accomplishment with candy; good grades, winning of a sporting event, birthdays, end of the school year or just about everything.  Sugar, sugar, sugar!  You can’t get out of a store without your child being tempted by a huge display of candy at the checkout counter and the frequent argument that this candy precipitates.

Contrast that with an experience I had the other day with an 8 year old boy whose parents are first generation immigrants from India. He had a pretty bad asthma attack and needed a dose of steroid to help him breath and get through the attack. My standard treatment in this situation is a dose of an oral steroid called decadron.  Unfortunately, decadron has a bitter taste and can only be taken with something to cover it’s bitter taste…. something sweet.  In my office, we use either liquid Ibuprofen if the child has a fever or we mix it with a small amount of chocolate syrup. He chose the chocolate. After he got his dose of decadron/Hersheys syrup, I went back to say goodbye to him and I asked him if he liked the chocolate? He replied, “I’ve never had chocolate before and it was really too sweet for me”.  He didn’t like it!  An American child who didn’t like chocolate; that was a first for me. I got to thinking, is the craving of sweets an innate quality of children or is it learned?  An interesting question to ponder.


Consider this fact; the insulin levels of children today are  much higher than the insulin levels of children 30 years ago. Why, because insulin is the hormone that opens fat cells to store sugar and when a child consumes lots of sugar, they have to raise their insulin levels to store that sugar in fat cells. Kids are getting way more sugar today than ever before.  Children in Taiwan, China, Iran, France etc are not getting bombarded with sugar like American children and if you ask this pediatrician, it needs to stop. The average American child consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day when only 8 is recommended.  Over time that adds up to lots of problems. We have talked about this before in various pedcasts that I will list here. If you ask me, Americans are some of the kindest and generous people on the face of the earth. We do a lot of things right but feeding our children isn’t one of them. Doc Smo pearl; Don’t  allow your children’s nutritional wants to overtake their nutritional needs, and I think that is a shame. Fortunately, this is something we can fix fairly quickly.


Thanks for joining me today for this installment of portable, practical pediatrics. If you enjoy learning pediatrics the pedcast way, go ahead and SUBSCRIBE at my website,  You will get an email notice each time I post a new pedcast or article and you can decide if that subject interests you. No marketing, no selling your name to others, just relevant information your children’s health that you can listen to on your schedule.  This is your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, in studio 1E, thinking it would be neat, if our children had fewer treats.  Until next time.


Smo Notes: