The Paula Deen Flap: Sugar, Lies and the Bitter Truth

Paula Deen is the new spokesman for a diabetes drug. Does anyone have a problem with that?

I think I generally try to be non-judgemental, but I'm afraid I'm about to depart from that behavior temporarily. The reason? Paula Deen, her diabetes, and her response.

Here's a nauseating little morsel: CBS News report on Deen's big reveal.

Turns out, Deen has been diabetic for three years during which time she has continued to encourage Americans to eat some of the worst food on the planet. Of course, she intended her viewers to eat this food "in moderation" (these two words make me see red dear readers)....as SHE herself does!

OK, so Deen may have been among the misguided. Perhaps she really didn't realize that eating a crispy creme burger would contribute to obesity and its deadly handmaidens. Maybe she really believed that her message was a moderate one: just have a little. (A little fried stuffing on a stick, anyone???)

But that explanation is, shall we say, a bit hard to swallow.

I am perfectly content for individuals to decide what they want to eat, as long as they understand what's at risk if they develop conditions like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease. If they understand fully, this remains their right and their choice. But most people don't understand, and I feel badly for those who think that a glass of water and a handful of lipitor, diuretics and metformin will reverse the damage caused by eating without thinking.

 Deen's choices are a different story. She is not an individual. She's a public spokesman for food. Now that her food choices have made her ill, she should be honest about the cause. I'm particularly angered by Deen's new role as "Diabetes Ambassador".  She has made a deal with a diabetes drug manufacturer and is already speaking for diabetes as if she knew something about it. Let's see. What would a drug company want a desginated celebrity to say about diabetes? Oh...I know! "Don't you worry. Our drugs can take care of everything. Just make sure to buy the particular drug we make, and make sure you order often."

Here's Deen on diabetes:

“I’m here today to let the world know that it is not a death sentence,” said the Food Network star, who is now being paid as a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that supplies her diabetes medication. Coinciding with her announcement, Deen and her family are appearing in a new ad campaign for the company this month.

The announcement that diabetes is not a death sentence would be news to the families of the tens of thousands of people who have died as a result of this disease. It would also be news to the Centers for Disease Control, whose diabetes web page describes diabetes as follows:

Diabetes Is Common, Disabling, and Deadly

  • 25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population) have diabetes. Of these, 7.0 million have undiagnosed diabetes.
  • In 2010, about 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older.
  • If current trends continue, 1 of 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050.
  • Among adults, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury.
  • Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2007.
  • A person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes.

Does Ms. Deen know that type two diabetics frequently progress to needing insulin? Does she know that studies have unequivocally shown the importance of dietary change and life habits in controlling this disease? Is she appropriately concerned about her own health and, perhaps more importantly, the health of the vast audience she commands? If not, does she have any business offering herself as a spokesperson? Time will tell, but right now, things don't look good.

According to the Today Show, on which she made her announcement:

When asked about whether she will make a change in how she cooks on her show, “Paula’s Best Dishes,” Deen didn't give a direct answer, instead encouraging viewers to practice moderation.

“Here’s the thing, you know, I’ve always encouraged moderation,” she said. “On my show, you know, I share with you all these yummy, fattening recipes, but I tell people 'in moderation... You can have that little piece of pie ...'"

This does not give me much hope for Ms. Deen as an advocate for the real behaviors and tough lifestyle changes that can truly change the life of a diabetic. But someone will benefit. She'll probably make alot of money for the sponsoring drug company who will be more than happy to perpetuate the lie that pills and shots conquer all, even a deadly and toxic diet.

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Andrea S January 24, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I have mixed feelings about this. We haven't watched Paula gain tons of weight while on the Food Network like many of their other stars who seems to constantly go up and down. Paula has always pretty much looked the same, so although she is over weight she's not obese. Also Food Network is more about entertainment than anything else, I dont' know too many people who turn around and try to make the dishes they see made on tv. Additionally, common sense tells you to not go overboard, if you have an unhealthy dish tonight have a salad tomorrow night. It's all about balance and moderation and exercise. As long as I go work out I can have that Venti Frapp from Starbucks. Lastly, you have no right to say she became diabetic solely because of how she eats. Everyone knows it's a combination of factors. You can genetically be pre-disposed to it so that if you do live an unhealthy lifestyle than you're more likely to become diabetic but to blame it only on her cooking I think is off the mark. However, I do agree about not liking that she's now a spokesperson for that company, I think she needs to make more changes in her own life first.
Garry Kanter January 24, 2012 at 02:58 PM
This country has a problem with our food system and with obesity. Believe me, I know. Paula Deen makes a very handsome living as a food celebrity. Maybe she has a responsibility to be a role model? Same as any overpaid athlete, no? In any case, we have these problems. She can choose to be part of the problem, or she can choose to be part of the solution. So far, she continues to be a part of the problem. Thanks for nothin', sugar.
Alex Vandehoff January 24, 2012 at 03:53 PM
If you make and eat the same food this overpaid hillbilly does on her show, then you deserve everything coming to you. If you are guided by everything you see on TV or the internet, then you deserve everything coming to you. THINK FOR YOURSELF
TM January 25, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Our parents generation was filled with lard and heart disease. Our generation is filled with cancer and "franken-food." Moderation is the key. Paula Deen is of our parent's generation and she has always said in her appearances, "Look, I'm your cook not your Doctor." I applaud her for coming forward and speaking about her health. Will she change how she promotes food on her show? Maybe, maybe not. Keep in mind before we all judge, she has never promoted health....just what tastes good.
* January 25, 2012 at 07:30 PM
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates


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