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Paula Deen’s Golden Opportunity To Educate The Public About Diabetes

If you could only name one American cultural icon who epitomizes what good old-fashioned Southern-styled cooking is all about, then it would undoubtedly have to be the ever-so-folksy and ultra-charming celebrity chef Paula Deen. This 64-year old woman has done a truly phenomenal job over the past decade of becoming a household name as one of the most popular personalities on The Food Network and beyond. She’s got cookware, spices, baking mixes, and so much more all plastered with her name and likeness on the packaging. She truly is the Queen of Southern Cuisine and has worked hard to earn that prestigious title.

There’s no denying that Paula has effectively built up her strong brand by endearing herself to a television audience and enthusiastic fan base through the use of that infectious Savannah, Georgia drawl, involving her family in creating and telling stories about her recipes, her notoriously mischievous laugh and infamously bragging about putting “a stick of butter” in just about all of her recipes. It’s really hard not to personally like someone like Paula, although I’ve often cringed watching her make recipes on her shows that are chock full of white flour and sugar when almond flour and a stevia/erythritol blend may have worked just as well. But she’s never had to be concerned with the health implications of her cooking–until now.

In case you haven’t heard all the rumors swirling around about Paula Deen in recent weeks, it was confirmed on NBC’s Today show today: SHE HAS TYPE 2 DIABETES! Here’s her candid interview with Al Roker talking quite openly about her 2009 diagnosis and why she decided to come out about it in 2012:

If I had to describe my reaction to that Today show interview, it would have to be disappointed. As much as my heart breaks for Paula Deen about this diabetes diagnosis, is the answer after three years of researching and learning about it really to become the paid spokesperson for pharmaceutical diabetes drugs like the ones from Novo Nordisk? There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting paid to promote a product, but I wonder how much she truly investigated the role of nutrition in helping her own personal diabetes as well as the fans she is attempting to give “hope” to through her newfound revelation today. Paula says she held off on telling anyone other than her immediate family about her Type 2 diabetes so she could learn as much as she could to properly educate people about it. But is a prescription drug the best she could come up with?

Paula said she’s excited about her new “Diabetes In A New Light” television program to help educate people about diabetes. But when you look closely at the web site for this new endeavor, it’s nothing more than an infomercial for the injectable, non-insulin diabetes drug Victoza® from Novo Nordisk. The safety information about this drug states that animal studies found it “caused thyroid tumors…including thyroid cancer” which could be “fatal.” The drug also may lead to a “severe…inflammation of the pancreas” which could “lead to death,” especially for those with high triglycerides which is typical of people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes. Stomach pain, hypoglycemia, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and kidney failure are all known side effects of taking this drug. Is this drug supposed to make people with Type 2 diabetes better?! YIKES!

Of course, Deen notes that her diabetes happened as a result of genetics, stress, age, diet and lifestyle. It’s those last two that Roker attempted to ask her about since her recipes are famous for being “fatty” (translation: loaded with “artery-clogging” saturated fat) inquiring about whether the diabetes has forced her to change her diet. She quickly noted that the recipes she makes on television are only for “entertainment” and that she doesn’t really eat this way. Oh, come on! I have never once heard her give a disclaimer on any of her programs that these recipes are only for very special occasions and should not be consumed often. For food addicts and those unconcerned with their health, no doubt they have watched Paula Deen on television and bought her cookbooks incorporating her recipes as a regular part of their meal planning. Some very shrewd publicity agent probably coached her on making this point but it really doesn’t hold much water in my book.

I just about puked when I heard her say that she promotes and encourages “moderation” and says she has always eaten that way herself. I did a podcast rant about this subject in January 2007 and it really gets my goat hearing somebody like Deen preaching “moderation.” This is nothing more than the equally-disasterous kissing cousin known as the “balanced diet” and it doesn’t really mean anything. Most people who are obese or diabetic cannot consume whatever foods they want even in moderate amounts anymore. Their metabolic condition requires them to make significant adjustments to their nutrition and lifestyle habits that will restore their health. That could mean reducing their carbohydrate intake to a level that will properly control their blood sugar and insulin while also increasing their consumption of fat, especially saturated fat, to serve as their fuel source while adequately satiating the body in combination with a protein intake appropriate for the individual. There’s such subjectivity of what “moderation” can mean that it is rendered meaningless.

It’s encouraging to hear Deen exclaim that people should “get on a program that works for you” because I believe that’s absolutely 100% true. Whether you are wanting to lose weight or improve your health, my motto with everything I do has always been to find the plan that will work for you, follow that plan exactly as prescribed and then to keep doing that plan for the rest of your life. I sincerely hope Paula finds what will work for her in properly managing her diabetes. She’s at an age where it can be a bit more difficult, but it’s not impossible to get her diabetes under control. Unfortunately, the answer is not going to be found in low-fat, high-carb diabetes educator hacks like Hope Warshaw or the American Diabetes Association (which only partially acknowledged low-carb diets in 2008 but only for their weight loss effects in diabetics), but rather in the real-life stories of real people who have changed their lives forever!

And this leads me to my final point. What a golden opportunity Paula Deen has to help truly educate the public about diabetes! If she is sincere in her desire to give “hope” for people struggling with managing this disease, it’s not gonna come from a pharmaceutical company pushing an expensive prescription drug with bigger risks than diabetes. It will actually come from an embracement of real, whole foods that promote healthy blood sugar levels, keeping insulin from going haywire, and still delivering delicious-tasting recipes that bring a smile to the faces of people living with Type 2 diabetes. My fear is that “healthy diet” that is promoted with the Victoza® drug will be translated as low-fat, high-grain nutrition that is exactly the opposite of what a diabetic needs. Why else do you think the ADA ran away from a truly low-carb cookbook in 2011? They KNOW this way of eating works marvelously for diabetics and there’s no money to be made in promoting healthy nutrition and actually making diabetics get better.

I hope Deen avoids the pull of “groupthink” and “dogma instead of data” coming from the medical community about nutritional health. Instead, I would love to see her honestly continue to learn as much as she can about this disease realizing there is so much more to it than simply popping a pill to cover up the ill effects. I wonder if she even knows about the research showing diabetic nephropathy can be reversed on a high-fat, ketogenic diet and that we should stop feeding diabetes what it really wants–carbohydrates! She can learn that a high-carb, low-fat diet is ineffective when you have high insulin levels and that the real diabetes treatment is a high-fat, low-carb Atkins-styled diet. The sooner she learns this, the better she will be able to manage her own diabetes–and quite possibly make a positive impact on the lives of her devoted fans who are suffering from this disease as well. She has quite a platform with her notoriety and fame if she’s willing to speak the truth for the benefit of a public starving for REAL answers about their health.

Plus, wouldn’t you just love hearing Paula Deen making a low-carb pound cake recipe using almond and coconut flour, a stevia sweetener blend along with “a stick of butter?!” Oh, now THAT would be both entertaining and educating all at the same time–and yummy too. MUST SEE TV, baby! Maybe it will happen…someday.

  • Jason Sandeman

    I admire what Paula did in order to get out of her house. She gave the public EXACTLY what they wanted… which is EXACTLY what the fast food chains, grocery stores, etc. Nevermind that it’s fueled by junk science, “LOW FAT!” Everything in moderation – sure. Have you ever seen some of the commercials? “Betcha can’t stop once you pop!”

    I am disappointed that Paula is aligned with Novo – and it is barely translucent. Paula has the ability to sway the masses – and you bet ya, her show would be awesome. Imagine if you will – “Here we are going to make a grass fed burger with pastured bacon. A couple slices of avocado y’all, and leave the cheese on the side. We’re gonna wrap this baby with some romaine lettuce, and we’re gonna eat these collard greens I made with a stick of pastured butter. To wash it down, I’m happy te announce I got me my SWEET TEA – We made it just like my grandpappi did – we set out a big ol’ bucket in the sun, and then we did something different – we sweetened it with Stevia Y’all! From my table to yours!”

    Now, that would be a hell of a show!

  • Jason Sandeman

    I admire what Paula did in order to get out of her house. She gave the public EXACTLY what they wanted… which is EXACTLY what the fast food chains, grocery stores, etc. Nevermind that it’s fueled by junk science, “LOW FAT!” Everything in moderation – sure. Have you ever seen some of the commercials? “Betcha can’t stop once you pop!”

    I am disappointed that Paula is aligned with Novo – and it is barely translucent. Paula has the ability to sway the masses – and you bet ya, her show would be awesome. Imagine if you will – “Here we are going to make a grass fed burger with pastured bacon. A couple slices of avocado y’all, and leave the cheese on the side. We’re gonna wrap this baby with some romaine lettuce, and we’re gonna eat these collard greens I made with a stick of pastured butter. To wash it down, I’m happy te announce I got me my SWEET TEA – We made it just like my grandpappi did – we set out a big ol’ bucket in the sun, and then we did something different – we sweetened it with Stevia Y’all! From my table to yours!”

    Now, that would be a hell of a show!

    • Anonymous

      I’d watch that show for sure!

      • http://www.lessfoodmorelife.com/ BHI

        Hopefully this should allow people to see that it’s NOT low fat that’s making us fat and sick. It high fat, high carb/sugar. I don’t know a single person who eats USDA pyramid or myplate or whatever. People eat plenty of carbs, plenty of fat with plenty of sugar mixed in. Even if Paula decides to go on a low fat diet, I can’t see it being worse than what she was already eating.

        • Anonymous

          Alma, they’ll definitely name fat. It’s what they do.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LQORRQUI5M4VURZKCIBDEWQQIE Margaret

          Question for you, @BHI:  How can the fat in her diet/anyone’s diet be implicated–as the cause of diabetes?  Diabetes is a disease of CARBOHYDRATE metabolism.  Fat has no effect–NONE–on insulin levels.  Whatever else you believe about diet and health, this is one fact that’s inescapable–and it boggles my mind when people continue to insist “it’s the fat, it’s the fat.”  How?  Please explain, because I would love to know how the fat in one’s diet promotes an inability to metabolize carbohydrates. Or how “this should allow people to see that it’s NOT low fat that’s making us fat and sick.” It doesn’t make me see that at all.

          • http://www.lessfoodmorelife.com/ BHI

            That’s kind of simplistic view isn’t it? Read the literature. Obviously you’ve never heard of fat induced insulin resistance and how a high fat diet can take you over the edge into type 2 diabetes once you are at the cusp of beta cell malfunction. Diabetes lives in the high fat, high carb zone. Carbs per se don’t cause diabetes otherwise the majority of the worlds population who live on mostly carbs would be diabetic! In any event that wasn’t the point I was making. All I was saying is that a change in Paula’s diet even if its to low fat can only be an improvement from the deep fried cheesecake diet diet she currently eats.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sparrow-Rose-Jones/40202452 Sparrow Rose Jones

      I wouldn’t align with Novo . . . but I wouldn’t protest them either since they make novolog and I would die wihout insulin.

      As a (newly diagnosed) type 1 diabetic (previously thought to be type 2 and frustratingly treated like such for a year), I gotta have my pharmaceuticals. But I use about 1/3 as much of them when I’m eating LCHF. And at my last visit (December) my doctor told me diabetics would kill to have my numbers (lipids, sugars, all of it.)

      I’ll take that grass-fed burger with pastured bacon, but I need something chemical to sweeten my tea. I’m one of the unfortunate diabetics who can’t mess around with stevia. Because of its effects on rate of carb processing and because I’m insulin-dependent, stevia makes me crash dangerously low and the go very high later when the metabolic-slowing processes of the stevia cause the residual carbs in my meal to catch up with me. Fewer carbs = crashing to 50 instead of crashing to 20 like the other diabetics I know with stevia issues, but I’m here to tell you that a blood sugar of 50 ain’t fun at all!

      Sadly, the strange asian herb in Quest bars does the same thing to me. Big bummer, as I was so excited to try Quest Bars! (And had such an awful day when I did.)

      I don’t hold a lot of hope for Deen’s advocacy. She seems most likely to keep living as she has been and try to compensate with drugs.

      I’m also not happy about the people who have been coming up to me today, thinking they know “all about diabetes” because they heard about Paula Deen and telling me I’ve got to stop eating all that butter. *sigh*

      • http://welldonechef.com/ Jason Sandeman

        I am a Type 1 as well, misdiagnosed as a T2. I use Levemir and Novo Rapid to live as well. Like you, I try to follow the LCHF lifestyle, no mean feat when you are a chef. LOL

        I think the advocates of Diabetes needs to be the general public. People like you and I, who keep our numbers low, despite having to use insulin. Of course… not much money in that…

        • Anonymous

          It’s too bad our motivation has to be all about money.

        • angela stone

          I would watch a show like that!

  • Anonymous

    Maybe there’s time for her to come around. I’m hoping.

  • http://plate-by-plate.com/ Penny

    Paula’s business managers are very smart people. I feel like they have been preparing her food related businesses for this one moment. The rumors have been swirling around for a while now but, had they not prepared, it could have been a diaster. Instead her son starts doing a show on remaking her recipes so they are lower in calories and fat which is being sold as “healthier” versions of her cooking. She inks a deal with a drug company that sells diabetic meds so she is being compensated (paid for doing a job like she says Al is). They put together a website before the interviews start because once people start thinking the butter in her cooking is to blame she’s going to need a new angle. Now she’s got it and I think many of her fans will follow right along as she helps them with their struggles with diabetes. It’s a marketing goldmine. Too bad they won’t be spreading the word that controling carbs is the one sure way to help with diabetes and diabetic complications. And, unlike medications, there are no side effects to worry about.

    • Anonymous

      I’m afraid you’re right Penny.

  • Marsha P

    Very nice, Jimmy.  Paula is going to try to make every last dollar she can, and hopefully it does not dig her an early grave.  She need not bake all those cakes and pies just to promote Southern cooking – we eat a lot of yummy meats and vegetables in the South, too!  Hopefully she’ll see the light and get healthy soon.

    • Anonymous

      We could show her a lot about what healthy low-carb living in the South can look like.

      • Craig

        I live in Memphis and have a blog about real healthy eating. Trying to make people understand that our signature dry-rub ribs are health food. It’s the bread, fries, sweet tea, etc., that normally come with them that can make you unhealthy. If you follow the link, some of the “popular posts” listed to the right should give you an idea of the message I’m trying to get out.

        http://memphisque.blogspot.com/

        • Anonymous

          Small world! I lived in Memphis for a time and enjoyed the MidSouth cuisine…nothing beats good Memphis BBQ and it IS healthy for people, Craig. I’ve added your link to my next big list of blogs…great work buddy!

          • Craig

            Small world indeed. I’ve listened to tons of your podcasts and never
            heard you mention living here, although you make it clear that you’ve
            spent a lot of time living in the south. Thanks for everything you do. A
            year ago I would have laughed at the idea of low carb living. Then I
            watched Fat Head and found Tom Naughton’s blog, which lead me to your
            podcast and blog, which has lead me to countless other blogs, books and
            podcasts. 

            • Anonymous

              I’ve been in FL, TN, VA and now SC.

  • Anonymous

    As always – Great article Jimmy but I seriously have my doubts about her coming to our side of thought. I feel she is going to dive head first into a low fat, high carb situation and promote it as a book and how ‘she controlled it with eating’  TOTAL BS. Why? There is zero financial reason for her to take the risk of pushing a low carb lifestyle and as we all know Food Network is against health (although they DID try G Stellas show show awhile, which I loved) and food network for the most part owns her.  She can’t do anything without them giving the ok.  It’s sad but true  :(   I too would adore a Paula Deen Almond Poundcake – I hope I am 100% wrong but I know I am not.

    • Anonymous

      Oh I agree Mark. But I’m hoping she uses this golden opportunity.

  • Janet Kennedy

    Jimmy – really good stuff.  Totally agree.

  • Anonymous
  • marilynb

    Are you going to try to contact her with your ideas, or at least send her the link to this blog post?  Somebody needs to give her a clue.

    • Anonymous

      Already reached out to her through Twitter, but I’m not expecting much right now. She’s got a paid spokesman deal with that diabetes pharmaceutical company so she has no incentive to do anything that would jeopardize making money off people with diabetes. If we start reducing blood sugar and insulin levels, then there won’t be a need for all those drugs any more. No drugs means no profits to pay for her sponsorship. It’s a sad state. Maybe once the dust settles and she realizes that low-carb living is what she needs, then she will seek out answers. We’ll be here for her when she needs us.

  • Sandragillanders

    I’m very dissappointed in Paula Deen. I’m sure she was advised to keep her diabetes a secret and now that she has a deal with Novo they had to come clean. She could do so much for diabetics and those teetering on the edge like me by coming out and saying that diet can work to bring down blood sugar for type 2 diabetes and not rely on drugs. Where is the modivation for drug companies to find cures?  They love when people have to rely on drugs and she is just fueling the idea that you can still have your cake, just take a drug to manage your blood sugar.
    It’s so discouraging to see fat blamed once again for all ills. I am seven months into of eating LC and have never felt better. It is changing my life for the better and I’m never going back to sugar and all the grains that I once comsumed. I’m so happy about my way of eating I want to shout it from the rooftops, lol!

    • Anonymous

      It is very disappointing, but I kinda understand her argument for wanting to wait and learn more about the disease. The problem is she let $$$ get in the way of offering the real “hope” that diabetics need to hear–high-fat, low-carb nutrition can manage their disease better than the most powerful drug the pharmaceutical companies can come up with. This is what makes this story so sad. Can you imagine if she came out and declared, “Hey y’all, I’ve had diabetes since 2009 but I’ve learned that it’s them darn carbs that are spiking my blood sugar and that I need to keep them under control if I’m gonna lick this thing in the bud. But my favorite part, y’all, is that I can still have my stick of butter in my recipes and I’ll show you how to make diabetic-friendly recipes that are as delicious as the ones I’ve made for you over the years–except healthier.” OH MAN, wouldn’t that be just awesome TV! Congrats on your LCHF success, Sandra!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W27FYEKM2CT5V2SAD42BG6LDKY Chris E

    She can’t tell the truth about what causes diabetes and encourage people to eat low carb. If she does, then she’s biting the hand that feeds her. Paula has bought into the lie.

    • Anonymous

      Possibly, but she has the star power and the money to withstand the brunt of the selflessness of promoting livin’ la vida low-carb.

  • Don in Arkansas

    Wouldn’t a Low Carb Conversation with Paula Deen be fun?  Super cool if you could make that happen, Jimmy.

    • Anonymous

      That ain’t happenin’ anytime soon, Don. But we will probably bring this up as a topic for our “friends” to discuss because it’s important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roland.denzel Roland Denzel

    This is a very good post, Jimmy. 

    I have a friend who’s an endocrinologist. He’s told me that even when people are counseled that they might eventually reverse their type 2 with diet changes, that they still often choose a lifetime of meds and their normal foods. 

    I believe that many people don’t want to try it, even for a few months. What do you have to lose, we ask? Well if it works, they would have to admit to themselves that diet is important and then the HAVE to give up the foods they love. 10 years ago, I was an “everything in moderation” guy, and lost my weight that way because I didn’t want to face losing my favorites. It took a gradual change in my nutrition philosophy to get to the point where I choose not to eat the less foods, except in extreme moderation and only periodically.

    Not losing weight is so complicated and emotional.

    Roland

    • Anonymous

      The quicker we come to realize that most of what we’ve “heard” about weight loss and improving health is probably wrong, the sooner we can actually make people better.

  • Eileen

    In one of the articles about Deen, a spokesperson for the ADA had this idiotic thing to say. Stupidest quote EVER. “You can’t just eat your way to Type 2 diabetes.”

    • Anonymous

      That’s why we still have a diabetes epidemic.

  • http://twitter.com/RadiantLux RadiantLux

    I was very disappointed by this as well. It makes me want to ask the question, “what role does fat play in insulin regulation?” Butter didn’t do this!
    I sincerely doubt she “always ate in moderation”. I know I didn’t!

    • Anonymous

      Me neither. Butter does not spike blood sugar–sugar and foods that turn to sugar in the body do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mindy.noxon.iannotti Mindy Noxon Iannotti

    Now it appears that her son has a cooking show for “lighter” fare.  Of course, it’s low-fat.  Wrong direction, folks!  An opportunity missed, for sure

    • Anonymous

      Hopefully she finds the truth sooner rather than later.

  • Anonymous

    Way to go Dr. Gerber!

  • Anonymous

    Adapting recipes to low-carb is a cinch…Paula would have a captive audience.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not criticizing Paula, Mary-Clare, but rather encouraging her to keep learning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1436470114 FatThen FitNow

    Very good post Jimmy.  I too rant against “moderation.”  I remember when I weighted 340 lbs, I tried moderation, instead of eating a dozen doughnuts I 1/2 dozen. 

    • Anonymous

      With no definitive meaning, “balanced” and “moderation” can mean whatever you want them to mean.

  • Tiffinjames

    As soon as I heard the first publicity headlines for this story, I thought of you, Jimmy, and I’m so glad you addressed it in your usual wonderful, thorough way!

    • Anonymous

      THANK YOU! I hadn’t planned on blogging but this story was a good teachable moment.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LQORRQUI5M4VURZKCIBDEWQQIE Margaret

    No, you are not deceiving yourself.  Those that think a high-fat diet is dangerous and that eating whole grains is beneficial are.

  • Linda

    There was another story this week that I saw on tv.  It was Oprah interviewing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey (on OWN).  There was a segment where they talked about their weight problems.  Oprah was beating herself up for what she called her “emotional eating” and Gov. Christie was talking about his lifetime struggles with weight and that he was going to hire a personal trainer and a dietician to get him on track.  I just can’t figure why on the outside, they along with Paula Deen, seem like such successful, wealthy and smart people.  Yet they can’t seem to get the correct information on how to deal with their weight and health issures. I’m not a genius nor wealthy, but I somehow educated myself on LC/HF and its benefits. My husband is a type 2 diabetic following Dr. Bernstein’s program and between the two of us we have lost a total of 185 pounds.  He has greatly improved his blood sugar levels, too. I tell you, we feel soooo much luckier than they with all their money! 

    • Anonymous

      Just goes to show you having money doesn’t mean you’re wise.

  • Tula

    I’m glad you were able to counter that fallacy. I’ve been posting on every blog and article I can find where they blather on about how the “fatty” foods are the problem.

    • Anonymous

      We need to redefine that “fatty” doesn’t mean that it contains dietary fat, but that it makes you develop fat on the body. And that kind of diet is a high-carb one. ;)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UIR6PYNT2YTFJTHKSF6CYCICMY Lawrence

    Jimmy,

    That was a great critique of how Paula Deen is becoming a tool for the pharmaceutical industry. Having read a bit of commentary about Paula Deen, after she admitted to being a type 2 diabetic, you can still see how entrenched the low fat/high carb mantra is in our media, popular culture, and among our medical establishment. Everyone attributes her diabetic condition to her cooking style, and the primary example they use is the “stick of butter” in her cooking and a common picture that is used is of Paula standing beside a miniature pyramid of butter. Again fat is FALSELY being implicated for a crime that it did not commit.
     
    Very few people underscore that it is not the stick of butter or any other saturated fat that is the culprit behind her diabetes, but the fact that so many of her recipes are inundated with white flour, sugar, and are generally high in carbohydrates. The “theorizing” that the general public, media, and our medical professionals are doing as to why Paula Deen developed diabetes
    illustrates why we need voices like yours so much. Keep up the good fight Jimmy. We will know when the tide of public opinion has turned against unproven nutritional dogma when the next celebrity who develops diabetes will be seen next to a picture of a mountain of sugar or flour, and the caption will read “a lifelong habit of bread and sweets has led such and such celebrity to
    type 2 diabetes”.

    -Lawrence

    • Anonymous

      That would make an extremely powerful statement, Lawrence.

  • Barbogold

    You have said everything that I was thinking. I was so disappointed in her decision
    to promote medicine instead of Low Carb. Golden opportunities don’t come
    along very often. After years of being diabetic type 2, my blood sugars
    are showing so low that my latest A1c test shows that I have near “NORMAL”
    sugars. Why?  Low Carb eating and loss of 75 lbs….