This article was featured by BlogHer Food upon original publication.
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 mainstream media outlets are writing, it’s not all about the butter.
It is one thing for the Huffington Post to publish 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 solely a result of “high-fat, deep-fried food”.
While perhaps innocent, uninformed quips on a celebrity scandal, from a science and journalism perspective the comments border on irresponsible. To be clear, refined, fatty foods are not the key to maximum health and longevity. But fried food and butter are simply ingredients at the tip of the diabetes iceberg.
Fat is not bad for us. Being fat is bad for us. Yes, a person can reach obesity status by consuming too much saturated 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
According to the Centers for Disease Control, type II diabetes is a product of obesity, a lack of exercise, consuming excessive refined carbohydrates, age, and the right dose of genetic predisposition. Singling out one factor for a chronic disease ignores the best practices of responsible journalism.
Instead of concentrating on one person in the public eye, the moment provides a textbook opportunity to convey all the risks of type II diabetes. And helpful information and resources on how to prevent the all-too-common chronic disease.
Bring in Winnie the Pooh
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 thirty-minute bounce around The Hundred Acre Wood with Tigger?
If we are out to make accusations, we 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 1921. Over a century ago, my friends. The mass production and marketing of refined carbohydrates soon followed.
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 is worth stating that those choices are a product of the education and information we receive from widely-available sources.
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's time to stop blaming corporations, celebrities, 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. And demand more from our schools, community leaders, and politicians.
Eliminating food deserts and increasing nutrition and food education for children and families are two obvious places to start. And leaving Paula Deen and poor Winnie the Pooh alone. Enjoy a little butter on your broccoli, 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 suffering from chronic disease and seeking to improve your health, consult your doctor first. If your doctor doesn't recommend changing your diet, you might want to 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