Healthcare News & Insights

Paula Deen announces she has diabetes, will continue to cook with pounds of butter

Popular TV chef/restauranteur Paula Deen is under fire following her announcement that she has diabetes — and has signed a deal to promote a diabetes drug. In a post on her web site, the Southern cook, known for using vast amounts of butter, salt and sugar in her recipes, announced recently that she was diagnosed three years ago with Type 2 diabetes.

She said that while she wasn’t planning to make any major lifestyle changes in the wake of the diagnosis, she did make changes “in” her life, including taking more walks and taking a drug called Victoza. Other than drinking less sweet tea she didn’t mention any dietary changes. Diet, of course, plays a huge part in both preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes.

Deen’s mention of the drug she takes is no accident: She also announced she’s a paid spokesperson for the drug.

And that admission, along with her lack of acknowledgement that her high-fat recipes could contribute to the disease, is drawing fire from many nutritional experts, health care professionals and some fans. When asked if the diagnosis would cause her to re-examine her recipes, she said “I’m your cook, I’m not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.” (Her son, incidentally, recently landed his own show, “Not My Mamma’s Meals” which focus on lighter versions of the same kind of foods Deen makes.)

No doubt, people are responsible for what they put in their own mouths. But the average American’s nutritional ignorance is well-documented. It’s easy to believe that many people treat recipes touted by someone as popular as Deen as a normal and healthy way to eat — not as the type of high-carb fat-bomb they should treat as an occasional indulgence.

Even other chefs have been critical of Deen’s position. Chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain once said of her cuisine (before the announcement of her diabetes), “If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us.” After her announcement he tweeted a response that likened her stance to “getting into the leg-breaking business” in order to sell a lot of crutches.

Does Deen have a responsibility to model healthier eating patterns to her audience? Or is it up to grown adults to figure out their own path to healthy eating? Sound off in the comments.

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