Chef Paula Deen hid diabetes, pushed high-fat food

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Paula Deen

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Paula Deen, the Southern belle of butter and heavy cream, makes no apologies for waiting three years to disclose she has diabetes while continuing to dish up deep-fried cheesecake and other high-calorie, high-fat recipes on TV.

She said she isn’t changing the comfort cooking that made her a star, though it isn’t clear how much of it she’ll continue to eat while she promotes health-conscious recipes along with a diabetes drug she’s endorsing for a Danish company.

“I’ve always said, ‘Practice moderation, y’all.’ I’ll probably say that a little louder now,” Deen said Jan. 17 after revealing her diagnosis on NBC’s “Today” show. “You can have diabetes and have a piece of cake. You cannot have diabetes and eat a whole cake.”

Health activists and one fellow chef called her a hypocrite for promoting an unhealthy diet along with a drug to treat its likely effects. Deen added her support of the Novo Nordisk company to a collection of lucrative endorsements that include Smithfield ham and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Deen, who turned 65 on Jan. 19, said she kept her diagnosis private as she and her family figured out what to do, presumably about her health and a career built solidly on Southern cooking. Among her recipes: deep-fried cheesecake covered in chocolate and powdered sugar, and a quiche that calls for a pound of bacon.

“I really sat on this information for a few years because I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do about this? Is my life fixing to change? Am I no longer going to like my life?” she asked. “I had to have time to adjust and soak it all in and get up all the information that I could.”

While Deen, who lives in Savannah, Ga., has cut out the sweet tea she routinely drank straight through to bedtime and taken up treadmill walking, she plans few changes on the air.

Government doctors say that being overweight (as Deen is), over 45 (as Deen is) and inactive (as Deen was) increase the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Growth of the disease in the U.S. has been closely tied to escalating obesity rates. Roughly 23 million Americans are believed to have the most common Type 2 diabetes; patients’ bodies either do not produce enough insulin or do not use it efficiently, allowing excess sugar, or glucose, to accumulate in the blood.

Deen is the pitch person for Novo Nordisk’s new online program, Diabetes in a New Light, which offers tips on food preparation, stress management and working with doctors on treatment. She has contributed diabetes-friendly recipes to the website and takes the company’s drug Victoza, a once-daily noninsulin injection that had global sales of $734 million in the first nine months of 2011.

TO LEARN MORE:

Paula Deen’s diabetes-friendly recipes

The American Diabetes Association