ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED January 17, 2012, featured on BlogHer Food
So Paula Deen has type II diabetes. Big deal. So do 34.2 million other Americans last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention checked. And contrary to what certain media outlets are writing, it’s not all about the butter.
It’s one thing for the Huffington Post to publish reckless blanket statements about diabetes being a “major consequence of heavy eating”. But the Detroit Free Press? Shame on the editor for allowing a reference that insinuates Deen’s diabetes is a result of “high-fat, deep-fried food”. While perhaps an innocent, uninformed quip on the news, from a science and journalism perspective the comment is reckless and irresponsible. Fried food is the tip of the iceberg.
Fat is not bad for us. Being fat is bad for us. Yes, a person can reach obesity status by consuming too much fat. And this can certainly lead to diabetes and hypertension. But the diabetes epidemic is so much more complex than just “too much fried chicken, y’all.”
The Brief on Type II Diabetes
Type II diabetes is a product of obesity, a lack of exercise, consuming excessive refined carbohydrates, age, and the right dose of genetic predisposition.
Permission to Eat Butter
Now on the topic of that butter. Our bodies do need fat - of the healthy variety - as part of a balanced diet. Pastured, organic butter isn't the worst fat you can eat. And farming practices aside, I would choose conventional butter any day over hydrogenated or processed vegetable oils.
Casting Blame is Absurd
So if we're going to blame Deen, we may as well take Winnie the Pooh down with her. After all, he's not exactly svelte. And always has his hands in the honey pot. Also, when was the last time we saw him take a good thirty-minute bounce around The Hundred Acre Wood with Tigger?
If we are out to make accusations, we certainly can't blame Paula Deen. She's too young. She came into this world after the convenience and fast-food mentalities had already set in.
Don't forget, the first White Castle opened back in the 1930s. Almost 90 years ago, my friends. The mass production and marketing of refined carbohydrates came shortly thereafter.
So yes, this is a ridiculous comparison. It is meant to be. No one particular person (or cartoon) in America is to blame for the diabetes epidemic. Even indirectly. Likewise, I don't believe any singular fast-food chain is at fault. We are all responsible for our own choices. But it's worth stating that those choices are a product of the education and information we receive.
Curing the Diabetes Epidemic
This convenient, nutrient-void eating style - exacerbated by growing portion sizes - has been a long time in the making. And it most certainly is not a result of Paula's Home Cooking. Trust me, we southerners were making gooey butter cake long before Paula Deen became famous (I have the 40-year-old family recipe to prove it).
So it is time to stop blaming companies, celebrities, cartoon bears, and each other for collectively becoming one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. We need to step up to the home plate, work together, and take responsibility for our own eating actions.
Eliminate food deserts. Increase nutrition and food education in public schools and local communities. And leave Paula Deen and Winnie the Pooh alone. Enjoy a little butter, y'all, from my honey pot to yours.
I am a private chef and culinary consultant with a basic formal education in nutrition and food safety. I am not a certified nutritionist or dietitian, and none of the information here is intended as medical advice. If you are overweight, hypertensive, or suffer from chronic disease and seeking to improve your health, consult your doctor first. If your doctor doesn't recommend a change of diet, find a new doctor.
Paula Deen Announcement on Today Show
Huffington Post on Paula Deen and 'turducken'
Risk Factors for Type II diabetes from the Mayo Clinic
The Obesity Code by Jason Fung
Forbes: Fast Food Has Become Increasingly Unhealthy Since The 1980s