by Barbara Berkeley, MD
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 it's 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.