Paula Deen

So I know this is not a food question per say, but it is a question about the responsibility of public food figures. I'm wondering what this food community thinks about the Paula Deen/ type two diabetes controversy. As much as I am dedicated to a healthy lifestyle and all for healthy food for children, especially in schools, I'm not sure it's a chef's responsibility to promote healthy eating. And if the problem is the way she cooks, I'm not certain her personal health should be part of the equation. Thoughts?

  • Posted by: ATG117
  • January 19, 2012


Sam1148 January 22, 2012
Larry the Cable guy, wants me to have antacid pill here.
ATG117 January 22, 2012
really liked this:
skittle January 21, 2012
What bothers me is that she's promoting the pharmaceutical drugs now. I don't care that she's living the lifestyle she wants...but to promote a particular lifestyle..then counteract that with a pill is what I find bothersome. Furthermore, to have her son's cooking show come out where he promotes lighter versions of her foods? I just think the timing of the whole thing was interesting.

Personally, I find her to be entertaining. Very warming. But I don't like how she's handling this situation. It seems she's taking full advantage when she could use this diagnosis to really help others.
Stephanie G. January 21, 2012
Marion Nestle said it best on her blog "Food Politics". Gotta love Marion!
ATG117 January 21, 2012
I think this is an interesting article, especially because Cuozzo has type 2 diabetes. But it still seems to me these are two separate issues. The one which Cuozzo addresses is whether Deen should be endorsing this drug and under what conditions it is appropriate to do so. I agree with him on that. Whether Deen would have a responsibility to start cooking differently, assuming she hadn't come out as a spokesperson for a diabetes drug, is separate.
SKK January 20, 2012
Forgot to add that in my mind the issue isn't celebrity, but the credibility of the spokesperson for a drug that may be the difference between life and death.
SKK January 20, 2012
Interesting article about this written by New York Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo, who also has Type 2 diabetes

His questions are very simple and remain unanswered:
* Is your weight up, down or the same since you were diagnosed, and since you started daily Victoza injections? (Which costs $500 per month.)
* What about daily blood-glucose readings and A1C (a several-months’ average of blood sugar) since diagnosis and since you started using Victoza? At least, have they gone up or down on a percentage basis?
* Before using a ridiculously expensive medication whose long-term efficacy has yet to be established, did you try other cheaper, highly effective drugs — like metformin, which helped lower my own daily blood sugar from 350 to a healthy 90-110, and costs less than $20 a month?

And as he points out, eating fatty foods doesn't cause the disease, and it can turn this realitively benign condition into a lethal disease.

Read more:
Chefbaltz January 20, 2012
i agree that just because you're a celebrity doesn't mean you automatically become a role model of any sorts. so....don't promote diabetes medications if you don't want to or feel like you should be a role model. obesity is out of control, but if you don't know how to eat in moderation, i don't feel like it's anyone else's fault but your own.

i think her life story is inspiring too but that doesn't mean that because you've had a hard life you just do whatever and eat whatever you want, promoting it on a cooking shows, in restaurants around the country, and in products, without consequences to your health at some point. i mean, she did cover this up for a few years so she must have known the fall-out would be bad.

she's not in control of what people eat just like anthony bordain isn't in control of whether or not people smoke or drink. he also doesn't have his own line of cigarettes or liquor that he's pumping to the public like deen's products and restaurants and now medication. do a public service announcement for free about diabetes, but don't try to make MORE money off of something you've done to yourself. fyi, bourdain has been off cigs for at least 3-4 years with the birth of his daughter...the alcohol, well he likes to drink. i'm pretty sure we won't see bordain pushing AA in the future like deen is pushing/promoting her insulin.

What's sad is that there are a whole lot of obese people out there that are going to think all their health issues are ok as long as they just take the "paula deen insulin." sad, but probably true.
Chefbaltz January 20, 2012
Add your answer here
paseo January 20, 2012
To me the issue isn't so much her high fat, sugar laden recipes - there is such a thing as common sense after all (which admittedly sometimes seems in short supply) - it's the fact that she continued for three years after her diagnosis to promote it. Now she has a contract with a pharmaceutical company promoting a diabetes drug that costs $500 monthly for a "maintenance" dose. What's wrong with this picture?

As for Bourdain piling on, at least he quit smoking some time ago.
drbabs January 20, 2012
Let's also keep in mind that Type 2 diabetes is growing at an alarming rate, and it is really a terrible disease--causing neuropathy, kidney disease, heart disease, even blindness. It's difficult to manage under the best of circumstances--imagine what it must be like for someone who cooks Southern (fatty, fried, over-the-top) food for a living. That she's using and promoting a new drug doesn't make the disease any less terrible. I think it's brave of her to open the conversation and to get people talking about diabetes. Who knows where this will lead? She's a public figure who has opened herself to tremendous scrutiny and criticism by sharing her private health information. I hope she can, over time, find a way to get healthy and promote healthy living to her viewers.
Sam1148 January 20, 2012
Okay, if you're looking to celibrary cooks, pundits to be your touchstone for diet and such. Stop it.

Even Anthony Bourdain a great critic of Paula Dean...loves Fat and smokes, 'drugs', Alcohol, etc. He's no pardon of health's bascially the same thing that Dean does---Enjoy food eat with friends.
It's kinda sad to see him going public on a 'quest' to degrade her..while he eats bone marrow fat, praises pork fat, and drinks a lot of alcohol. Seriously, what's the diffrence here, except one wears a suit, and has orgasms over a fatty pork product, and the other is a woman with gentic differences for a disease..(well she's capitalizing on that tho). A. Bourdain is far much a whore for high fat stuff as in "oh Bone Marrow" Or
"Oh fatty pork meat". He even did a show about the 'porn' of high fat stuff and did the same thing as a 'joke'..except never too insult his sources.
ATG117 January 20, 2012
I agree that the promoting of a diabetes medication seems to be in bad taste. But I almost want to believe Paula did this with good intention. It's not as though she needs the cash. Maybe I'm naive, but you have to consider that she could have saved face and never even announced she had diabetes. She must have considered the backlash. It's interesting to me that the majority of responses come down on the side of, she bears responsibility as a public figure because she isn't a public figure for promoting health. As others have noted, government officials, parents, and teachers have a responsibility to promote healthy eating. But Paula is a cook and like most cooks, even the most acclaimed, her food is fattening. If her food isn't as good as that of the four star chefs, it's not necessarily true that her food is less healthy (though maybe it is). I very much agree with Meganvt01 and the slippery slope argument here.
Sam1148 January 19, 2012
Well there's a lot of kickabout her having a disease. Which may or may not (due to genetics) caused by her diet.
She's a Food Network person...So I give it that for what's it's worth, that's her gig.

What's strange is that Alton Brown didn't get half the kicking about when he adopted an extrime "healthy" diet.
He looked sick. This is not an image of a healthy person.
cvb January 19, 2012
I think that she certainly is entitled to cook the way she likes - despite health implications. But, it is inappropriate for her to be the face of a medication used to help control diabetes if she is obviously is not only going to not change her lifestyle but rather continuing to promote cooking that way. An a few have mentioned that weight plays a larger part w/diabetes than diet, but really - do any of you think her diet doesn't contribute to her weight?? She shouldn't be working both sides.
Abby A. January 19, 2012
I think most would have embraced her if she just came out with it and moved on in trying to modify her recipes while still doing the high fat stuff once in a while. What came across is that she held on to this disease for THREE YEARS until a lucrative pharma deal came along. I still like her, I enjoy watching any cooking show and hers is no different ( although the youtube of her making a Krispy Kream-egg-bacon-burger is horrific!) . However, I wish she would consider emphasizing that much of the time what she has can be controlled by diet alone. People eare killing themselves, losing limbs and sight over something they can control. Its super sad.

Marishka January 19, 2012
I thought she was a little defensive on
The Today Show, which gave me pause.
I also was a bit turned off by the way she
Kept trying to get a plug in for her son's show.
All in it for the money?
meganvt01 January 19, 2012
OK - lets assume that an eight year long randomized study conducted by highly credentialed individuals in a peer-reviewed journal may have insight - and that insight is that your weight may be a greater factor in diabetes II rather than the content of your food. So - are we to say that all TV chefs who are overweight should be only cooking or promoting health foods because they are at risk for heart disease and diabetes? It is a slippery slope to put that responsibility on people simply because they are a TV personality. One positive thing we can hope for is that Paula Deen's actions here - that we are discussing - put this issue into American's daily conversations about food, health, and lifestyle.
Panfusine January 19, 2012
No, while it certainly isn't her responsibility to advise healthy eating considering that her USP is deep fried butter & related products, but having said that, its hypocritical of her to be promoting this while getting compensated by the big pharma companies AND profiting from Novo Nordisk..That kind of clouds the ethics behind her show.. Kind of like the cigarette cos advertising smokes while knowing all the while that smoking can be fatal!
susan G. January 19, 2012
She, I believe, was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago. To continue her charade was a deliberate economic and ego choice. But just think how much she could have done -- with both financial and ego rewards -- if she had come out as a teacher and role model to invite us (not just diabetics) how to eat well, eat with panache, without tempting diabetes and other conditions which invite long term deterioration.
I seriously question the study mentioned by meganvt01. Regardless of the specifics of Deen's case, food is an important piece of the picture.
meganvt01 January 19, 2012
There was a good article on the Daily Beast about this topic in particular that cited a comprehsive study which showed there was no causitive link between food and type II diabetes.

While I never eat the food she promotes, I do have respect for her story. A single mom with agoraphobia trying to provide for her family in the only way she knew how - cooking her food. She made lunch baskets and eventually it all snowballed into a celebrity career. She's a celebrity because of her sparkling personality and winning life story - not because she is promoting a heart healthy lifestyle. I don't expect every chef/cook who makes it big promoting their story and the food they learned as a child to suddenly change course when they become a public icon. Caveat emptor - we all know fried butter isn't good for you. But really - Anthony Bordain who smokes a pack of cigs and gets wasted on every show really shouldn't critize another TV personality's health choices.
sdunleavy January 19, 2012
The main contributing factors in type 2 diabetes is Weight ( especially in the midsection), age, genetics and sedentary lifestyle. The reason people are diagnosed is that either their body halted making insulin or the cells in your body arent sensitive to it anymore. This is why diet and exersize are the first treatment. High fat foods contribute to belly fat. Experts can word this as a high fat diet doesn't cause obesity but this is a major risk factor to the disease.
sdunleavy January 19, 2012
Obesity in America is escalating at a rapid rate. As a public figure you should be a role model. I understand that she is a cook. She makes what she wants; however, she is a public figure. She should be taking responsibility. Type II diabetes is not something that should be taken lightly. Uncontrolled, it can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease. To laugh and say that what you are showing people is unhealthy and is a heart attack waiting to happen is insulting. To top it off she is going to be the face of a diabetes medication. The rule of thumb with an initial diagnoses of type II diabetes is diet and exercise. She could stop the disease progression but she decided not to even try and modify her lifestyle. Why is our society so slanted that medication is the first option. What a wonderful role model.
The S. January 19, 2012
I know nothing about the diabetes advertising, so I cannot speak to that, but I am baffled by the outrage being expressed by people (not on this thread--you guys are answering a question, I am referring more to angry, spontaneous tweets, facebook posts, etc). I agree with gaffagirl. Barefoot Contessa also uses a lot of butter. Many chefs do, especially those with a restaurant background. Obviously we should not eat that way every day, but save your outrage for school cafeterias and people working with children who do not educate them better about how to eat every day (versus a once in a while treat). Paula Deen is not in the education or working with children business. JMHO.

Voted the Best Reply!

MTMitchell January 19, 2012
I'm with the responsibility argument. Paula reminds me of a chain-smoker who has emphysema and cuts back to two-packs-a-day post-diagnosis. Case in point (besides the donut-cheeseburger): the Fat Darrell. Part sandwich, part science experiment, it consists of the following things, layered on a grinder roll – marinara sauce, french fries, chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks, lettuce. It should be called a Dead Darrell.

At some point Paula Deen went from being a Southern culinary historian and turned into a cooking circus sideshow. She’s created the kitchen equivalent of the Amazing Mr. Lifto. She peddles increasingly-gnarly combinations of ingredients that may create facsimiles of classic Southern dishes, but really end up like something out of a culinary funhouse mirror – all distorted and more than a little scary.

Fundamentally, what she peddles food-wise and product-wise amounts to a really unhealthy lifestyle. She could have used her platform as a “food celebrity” to bring awareness to the ways in which people with Type 2 diabetes can and should make changes in their lifestyles, how they can do so in reasonable ways, how they can use at least some of the hallmarks of Southern cooking as I understand them (use your garden, make things from scratch, try canning) to make changes that can have a positive impact on their health.

Instead she’s using her image – and now even her health – to make a quick buck. That’s fine when it comes to selling people a cheap-o mattress for way more than it’s worth, but when it comes to people’s health…? To be fair…it remains to be seen how this all plays out, and maybe I’m just being cynical, but I find it hard to believe that the woman who came up with Ham-Banana Casserole is going to change her tune any time soon.
Helen's A. January 19, 2012
I agree with foidivin, we do have a responsibility to each other. She doesn't promote her recipes as a special occasion treat, it's everyday food. It's a shame that she's not willing to change her lifestyle. Medication is not magic! I find it very interesting that her son now has a show that focuses on lightening up Paula's recipes!
hrosdail January 19, 2012
I saw her on dr oz and she just said she didn't really want to change how she ate, even when confronted with the "truth tube".
foidivin January 19, 2012
I personally think we all have a responsibility to make this world a better place, a healthier place. I'm a southern girl, so Lord knows I looove my fried chicken. But if you're going to teach how to make unhealthy things, I believe you also have an obligation to teach an alternative healthier recipe.
GIOVANNI50 January 19, 2012
I think she is over rated. Her recipes are nothing sensational. I flip channel every time she is on.
Droplet January 19, 2012
gaffagirl January 19, 2012
It's not her responsibility. I doubt many people really believe that her dishes are healthy, and let's face it- if you eat her dishes in moderation every now and again you are going to be fine.
SKK January 19, 2012
Don't think the issue is the way she cooks, the issue is she is known for recipes such as a hamburger between two doughnuts and is getting paid to advertise for a diabetes medication. I get a chuckle from
Bourdain's statement "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."
ubs2007 January 19, 2012
LOVE this response! Brilliant!
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