Update: A company spokesman with Novartis called this afternoon to address the rumors that Paula Deen has signed an endorsement deal with the pharmaceutical firm, which the company says are false. Novartis issued this statement: "The rumors that Novartis has signed a multi-million dollar spokesperson deal with Paula Deen for a Diabetes treatment are not true. Novartis is not working with Ms. Deen."
Since April 2011, rumors have been floating around the Internet that popular cooking show host Paula Deen had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes -- the kind of diabetes brought on by a life of the same rich, fatty, "Southern" foods that Deen constantly advocates on her shows and in her cookbooks.
This type of diabetes is frequently called "adult onset" to distinguish it from the far less common diabetes mellitus type 1, which is unrelated to diet and diagnosed in childhood. While most people who develop type 2 diabetes are genetically predisposed to the condition, its onset and severity are exacerbated by things like a poor diet, excess body fat and a lack of physical activity.
If the rumors of Deen's diabetes are true, she would join 285 million diabetics across the world -- a figure that's increased drastically from a mere 30 million since 1985.
The Food Network star is reported to have just signed an endorsement deal with major pharmaceuticals company Novartis, which would bring her a hefty financial payoff in addition to her cookbooks, shows, clothing line and other endorsement deals with ethically and morally dubious organizations like Smithfield.
In short, Deen is quickly becoming the worst possible role model in food at this moment: She advocates a delicious albeit incredibly unhealthy diet supplemented with pork products from dangerous and inhumane sources, then turns around and further profits off her own butter-induced health condition by hawking Big Pharma to her moon-eyed masses.
Deen could have taken the opportunity -- if one can call a devastating condition like diabetes an opportunity -- to talk candidly about the dangers of a diabetic lifestyle, and the long-term complications it causes: kidney failure, strokes, heart attacks.
She could have used her enormous platform to advocate for a healthier lifestyle now that she's allegedly been diagnosed with diabetes. She could have admitted that the fatty foods and sugar-saturated diets she's been profiting off of for years are actually a road straight to high blood sugar, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and -- for some -- diabetes.
Although I certainly can't imagine the Southern belle doing a 180 and undertaking an entirely plant-based diet, think of how amazing it would have been for Deen to take any track other than promoting a lifestyle that will require daily, extremely expensive medication and testing strips and finger pricks until the day you die. Which will probably be of diabetes-related complications anyway.
Imagine someone of Deen's popularity encouraging her millions of fans to incorporate more tasty fruits, vegetables and lean proteins into their diets. There was a glimmer of this possibility when her sons released The Deen Brothers Take It Lighter, which offered healthier versions of Mama Deen's recipes. If anyone can make eating healthy taste good, it would be Deen. Hell, the woman managed to make fudge with Velveeta in it taste good. But these types of efforts from her camp are few and far between.
Instead, in the middle of a crippling obesity epidemic brought on by high-calorie, nutrient-poor diets, Deen is making money off a secret she's supposedly hidden from her fans for years. Making money off those same fans who'll think, It's okay to eventually develop this avoidable health condition; I can just take the same diabetes medication that Paula Deen does! Costly pharmaceuticals are not the answer; science has proven again and again that healthy eating is the best way to prevent and/or manage type 2 diabetes.
Deen has attempted to defend her style of cooking in the past by saying that she cooks "for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills," avoiding the idea that inexpensive food can also be healthy food with a sob story: "It wasn't that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too."
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Deen definitely isn't struggling anymore, but millions of diabetic Americans certainly are. And she's shaping up to be their worst advocate yet.
Anthony Bourdain was right: Paula Deen really is "the worst, most dangerous person to America."