Jan. 17, 2012 at 2:58 PM ET
Paula Deen came clean to TODAY’s Al Roker that she was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes three years ago. The 64 year-old Georgia-born chef is the Queen of high-calorie, fat-laden, Southern comfort food said she kept the disease hidden from her many food followers because she had to “figure things out in my own head.”
“I wanted to bring something to the table when I came forward,” she told TODAY. “I’ve always been one to think that I bring hope.”
It seems that the “something” Deen is bringing to the table is her promotion of a diabetes drug and an online diabetes management program.
There’s an ethically nasty hypocrisy to the timing of Deen coming clean about her condition. Obesity and genetics are leading causes of type-2 diabetes, not just somone's diet. But it’s possible that what Deen has proudly, aggressively and lucratively promoted in her TV kitchen for years may be a factor in her illness. If you are making a living promoting foods that give the American Diabetes Association fits -- such as saturated fats (butter!), bacon and sour cream -- you certainly have an obligation to let your fans know as soon as you know that you have a disease that is tightly linked to the food you are shilling.
Not only has the First Lady of the Deep-Fryer been less than transparent about her disease, she has inked a multimillion dollar deal with the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk for its once-daily treatment. It is hard to imagine a stickier ethical affair than making a fortune promoting foods that make people fat -- thereby increasing their risk of diabetes -- and then having the nerve to try to sell them a drug to treat the diet-related disease that she has had secretly for years.
Deen never told anyone to eat only what she prepares on TV. She told TODAY that her show is entertainment and that "you have to be responsible for yourself." But, she has frequently laughed-off the well-known health risks of a diet rich in fried and fatty entrees. Strictly following her dietary directives puts her viewers and readers at risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
One of her rival TV food floggers, Anthony Bourdain, has called Deen "the worst, most dangerous person to America" for glamorizing unhealthy recipes. I am not sure she makes it to the top of my most dangerous list. But, given her lack of ethics about what foods she has promoted in the past and a lack of honesty about a disease known to be closely tied to those very foods, I certainly would be extremely wary about following her advice about either what to cook or what medicines to take in the future.
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