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Paula Deen Wants Americans to See Diabetes in a New Light

Paula Deen, Type 2 Diabetes

After much speculation, Paula Deen, the 64-year-old Food Network Star, has revealed that she has in fact been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. On the TODAY show, Deen tells Al Roker and viewers that she was diagnosed three years ago during a regular physical but kept the news close to her chest until she could find a way to use the message to help others. Today, she announced the launch of her website, with pharmaceutical partner Novo Nordisk, “Diabetes in a New Light.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2011 18.8 million people in the United States had a confirmed diagnosis of diabetes. There were 1.9 million new cases in adults diagnosed in 2010 alone. However, two other startling statistics are brought to light in the National Diabetes Fact Sheet released January 26, 2011. It is estimated that 7 million American people have diabetes but do not yet know. 79 million have what is known as “prediabetes”, something that used to be called “borderline diabetes” where blood sugar is elevated, but not yet to the point of a clinical diagnosis.

On TODAY, Paula Deen stressed that food is only part of the equation. She is often criticized for the Southern food she prepares on her television shows as they are typically fried, high in fat, and high in sugar. Her “Lady and Sons Lasagna,” for example, is prepared with almost 6 cups of cheese and regular ground beef. She says that she has often preached moderation, but this particular recipe suggests that you “keep coming back for seconds.”

To her credit, Paula Deen mentioned a few very good points during her interview with Mr. Roker. First, once you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it is not a “death sentence.” But she admonishes those who have the condition and do not care for their health, particularly skipping medications. The complications of diabetes can be severe.

In 2007, the American Diabetes Association notes that diabetes was listed as a contributing factor in over 230,000 American deaths. Those with diabetes have a high risk of co-morbid complications such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease – all which can drastically shorten life if not managed.

Second, she urges people to get tested. Deen herself was found to be diabetic during a regular physical. The longer a diabetic patient is undiagnosed and unmanaged, the more damage is being done to the cardiovascular system, the eyes (diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness), and the kidneys. While a patient may believe they are saving money by not paying doctor co-payments or medication costs, diabetes is a very expensive disease with $116 million spent in direct medical costs and $58 billion for indirect costs, including disability, work loss and premature death.

Third, Paula Deen notes that you must be responsible for yourself and your health. While you diabetics should manage their disease, they should not “quit eating” and should continue to “live a full life.” There are many options for people to take care of their blood sugar levels without feeling deprived. Her website “Diabetes in a New Light” suggests the following for Healthy Eating:

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• Eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables
• Choose lean meats (such as poultry and fish), and beans for protein
• Balance the number of calories you eat with your activity level
• Incorporate foods rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
• Limit your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar

Paula also suggests simple “livable” dietary changes can have a big impact. "I have made simple changes in my life, like cutting back on one of my favorite things, sweet tea - and for a Southern girl, that's a big deal," she says in a video posted on the website.

Staying active is also important to diabetes management. To stay active, try the following:

• Use the stairs instead of the elevator
• Park your car a greater distance from your destination
• Spend time exercising with friends
• Take several short walks during the day
• Lift small weights while talking on the phone
• Wash your car and tend to your garden
• Swim or take an aerobics class

An indirect factor for uncontrolled diabetes is stress. Adequately coping with stress can help with quality of life in diabetic patients.

• Stay active. It can improve your blood sugar levels as well as your mood
• Meditate. Short periods of quiet reflection can improve your ability to cope with stress
• Be positive. Avoid negative thoughts by concentrating on things that make you happy
• Spend time doing something you enjoy. Listen to music, take a bath, or work on a favorite hobby
• Laugh. Laughter may lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones
• Consider yoga. This form of full-body stretching can help you feel calm
• Get plenty of sleep. Sleep loss may lead to weight gain and may interfere with your body’s ability to use insulin
• Make sure you have a good support network

Overall, Paula wants people to be more positive about their approach to diabetes as opposed to shaking a finger. Geralyn Spollett MSN ANP-CS CDE, president of Health Care and Education at the American Diabetes Association says that Deen is likely to do just that. “We commend her for speaking out on behalf of people with type 2 diabetes and welcome her to the Association’s Stop Diabetes® movement.”

Resources Include:
Diabetes in a New Light
American Diabetes Association



I'm sad for Paula, but not all that surprised. Maybe she should look into a healthier diet to treat her diabetes instead of drugs? There's lots of interesting information available at this noncommercial, science based site (nutritionfacts.org). To quote the good doctor: "It is too bad Paula Deen missed this opportunity" to tell her fans "that type 2 diabetes can be prevented, managed, treated, and even cured". Read more at nutritionfacts.org/blog/2012/01/18/paula-deen-diabetes-drug-spokesperson/