Today's Evil Beet Gossip

Rumor Mill: Paula Deen Probably Has Diabetes, Y’all

Photo: Celebrity chef Paula Deen

This is so terrible and funny, even though it’s only funny in a medically terrifying, life-threatening way.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen is best known, not for her down-home style of Southern-fried cooking, but for her use of butter. Just, butter. All the time, butter. Butter, butter, everywhere.

So this rumor is sad but not altogether unexpected:

Celebrity chef Paula Deen plans to set the record straight about rumors that she’s been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes on a Tuesday (Jan. 17) “Today” appearance on NBC.

On Thursday, the rumor—which first surfaced in a 2010 National Enquirer story—took on new life when The Daily reported that Deen was preparing not only to confirm the diagnosis, but had signed a multi-million dollar deal to become a spokesperson for the diabetes drug Novartis.

Deen—considered the doyenne of Southern cooking—built her reputation on high calorie, high fat recipes and an unapologetic affinity for butter. In August 2011, chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America.” Deen also appeared on the “Dr. Oz” show in October and asked for help to quit smoking cigarettes.

The tidbit about smoking is really interesting, actually. Did you know that smokers use ciggies to control their blood sugar? That’s a huge part of the addiction, in fact.

CBS News has a little more information:

Now a source tells The Daily, “She’s going to have to start cooking healthier recipes. She can’t keep pushing mac and cheese and deep-fried Twinkies when she is hawking a diabetes drug.”

Insiders say the Georgia native has started changing her cooking approach and will soon make healthier options available at her Savannah, Ga., restaurant, The Lady & Sons.

Her son, Bobby Deen, has already jumped on the healthier food bandwagon. Earlier this month, he launched the series, “Not My Mama’s Meals,” on the Cooking Channel, where he creates less fatty versions of his mother’s old-fashioned Southern recipes.

There you have it: Paula Deen is probably going to cop to having diabetes this Tuesday. What’s more, her entire business model has to change, now that she’s contractually obligated to shill for Novartis.

Yep, this rumor definitely holds butter water. And here I am, giggling merrily and morbidly, because it’s like, of course Paula Deen has diabetes.

Let me shift gears. My mother is turning 80 tomorrow—happy birthday, mom!—but a little under a week ago, during her last hospital stint, we found out that on top of every other health ill, she is diabetic. Newly diabetic! At 80 years old, she is “suddenly” diabetic! Her nurse and I had no idea, and anyway, diabetes does not run in our family.

This is such scary stuff. Please, please take care of yourselves, everybody.

(Image via The Daily 2 Cents.)

30 CommentsLeave a comment

  • if anything, cigarettes (very) briefly RAISe blood glucose. It is certainly NOT a big part of the addiction (the addiction has to do. with receptors in the brain that the nicotine wor on which is not glucose related) stop writing garbage on health matters

    • right, smoking inhibits insulin release, which slightly elevates blood sugar, suppressing appetite for a period of time. i think that qualifies as controlling blood sugar. and seeing as a good number of hollywood stars and starlets smoke to keep their weight down (i mean, for God’s sake, my own extended relatives and people i have worked with did the same thing for years), i would say it’s a contributing factor for people to continue smoking (maybe not the full-on addiction, but still, a considerable reason to continue).

      • Exactly. Without peeking at that link (I think I can guess at what it’ll reveal), I have a lot of anecdotal evidence.

        When I got serious about quitting, a lot of “stop smoking” websites advised that I just lock myself into a room (so I can’t shout at people during withdrawal) and drink copious amounts of cranberry juice. Cranberry juice flushes the system, but it’s also a means by which to control blood sugar.

        I read this, and I slowly realized that I’d been able to go on “marathon starvation” benders by smoking, like, two packs a day. Every time I felt that blood sugar jitter, I’d just have a cigarette… instead of EATING. Like, I couldn’t even tell the difference between “needing a smoke” and actual hunger anymore. (Maybe I should have used the word “habit” instead of “addiction,” but I am a habitual cig addict, so it’s tough to make that distinction in my own mind.)

        In the years since I started smoking heavily, I’ve also become “insulin resistant.” I need to watch my step and take care of myself if I don’t want to develop diabetes. So I’m not saying there’s a causal correlation between smoking and PCOS, nor do I understand which direction that relationship might run, but I do know, experientially and endocrinologically, that my metabolism is wrecked, and using cigarettes to stave off hunger is a huge part of that.

  • So which drug will she be the new face of? (Novartis is a pharmaceutical company). I think she would look lovely in an Actos-purple pantsuit. Perhaps a Januvia inspired blouse? (they use trendy colorblocking!!)

  • well. actually i am a doctor and this is very wrong. If elevated blood sugar suppressed the appetite in this way, all the obese type II diabetics would lose weight naturally. this is really not true
    nicotine is an appetite suppressant but not through insulin. also raising glucose is not controlling blood sugar; it’s actually making it worse-so not it does not “qualify”

    • Um. We do know that cigarettes raise blood sugar because nicotine actually inhibits the release of insulin from the pancreas. Higher blood sugar means a suppressed appetite. It follows that a smoker—especially one with an insulin resistance problem—might habitually reach for a cigarette when experiencing those telltale symptoms of hypoglycemia. I am not contesting whether smoking “makes blood sugar worse,” because I know that it does. Certainly I’m no professional researcher, but I really do not feel that I am disseminating medical misinformation here.

      • also, jenn, if we’re going to pull the “i am a professional card,” i will say that i am a veterinary student with two physician parents, and i can say quite assuredly that insulin is affected by smoking.

      • I have no doubt, Jess. (Not to be pernicious, and this is only an aside, but I will say that vets seem to consistently understand freaky medical phenomena better than some/many/most doctors—see also “Cushing’s Disease”)

      • so for some reason i can’t reply directly to your other comment, jenn, but you’re right–Cushing’s disease is strange, and can be instigated by a variety of issues (also hard to diagnose when presenting non-specific clinical signs!). and though i believe vets and doctors usually understand very well weird things that are presented to them respectively, i will say that veterinarians do tend to deal with more taboo issues on a day to day basis (example: this past week we had an entire lecture series, with many more to follow, about poop. like, actual feces. when your patient can’t speak, the poop is the first thing to investigate).

      • ah, yes. well. i just did. goes to show how little i comment on things. anyway, i hope you only know about Cushing’s in passing–if you or your family has a dog that has to deal with it, i send you my regards! it’s a pain, and no fun for the animal.

    • sorry, i think i meant “controlling” as in “affecting” or “manipulating,” not maintaining homeostasis. what it has been shown to do even in RECENT (i.e. 2009 and up) studies is that it may inhibit insulin substrates, decreasing insulin action in smokers. i think your disagreement with me was more in the semantics than anything, as this is what is being discussed in the scientific community (and thus why people who are already pre-diabetic are increasing their risk of diabetes).

  • The article cited in the link seems to be from 1980. I would hope we have learned more since then. I am diabetic and used to smoke (quit last year) and no one ever said anything to me about it raising my blood sugar. What they DID say and why they wanted me to quit even more than they would a non-diabetic person is that diabetes raises your risk of heart disease and circulatory problems as well as smoking does. So you are at increased risk from both things.
    And cranberry juice does control your blood sugar, it raises it, just like all fruit juice does because it has fructose in it. The only possible way that it flushes your system is your urinary tract when you pee it out.

      • I will cede that nicotine raises blood glucose levels. However, I went into every link in the first two pages that your link above references. None of them states to what degree the blood glucose is elevated or for how long. (The NIH link says “chronically” but not how much.) I understand that one person’s experience is not proof. But as someone who has tested their blood glucose multiple times a day over the span of years and quit smoking over a year ago, I have personally not seen any difference in my glucose levels. I was smoking over a pack and a half a day. So I was not long from a cigarette at any point except when I woke up. I personally believe from what I have read in the past that the major component of appetite suppression from tobacco use is that nicotine is a stimulant. And stimulants depress appetite. The blood sugar factor may be a small component. At least until I see some specific information as to how significant it is, that is how I will see it.

      • Oh, ha. The “link” is just the organic google search result for “cigarettes blood sugar.” (Better search terms might elicit more honed results.) Certainly nicotine only spikes levels—same as with any starch, for any person, I imagine—and then there is an inevitable crash. So when I say “control,” I mean “repeatedly smoke cigarettes in an effort to maintain a ‘stable’ level without actually stopping to eat something nice and healthy.”

        Of course I have tried my best to not assert any real causality, and I didn’t mean to insinuate that diabetics get hooked on smoking. For what it’s worth, I’d reiterated what I’ve read about blood sugar as “repeatable fact” or “useful trivia,” rather than some contentious point of research. Had I realized I was about to make an outrageous or facetious claim I might have sidestepped it, but in lieu of the convo-storm, I don’t think I’ll retract it, either. Conflict is great for business, right? (Ha, ha.)

  • Smoking also changes the chemistry of your brain, causing certain receptors to bind to nicotine instead of chemicals produced by your own body. It’s a significant reason that quitting is difficult.
    If that is incorrect, you can blame my old neuropsychology professor. I’m not taking the hit for that one : )

  • exactly, pufinstuff!!! it is not at a physiologically significant level at all!!!! and addiction (as i said before) is about neurochemistry not insulin (which is not in the brain) and also why would diabetics (esp type II a la Paula Dean) need to address LOW glucose levels? it is medical misinformation despite this vet’s long conversations with his physician parents about the diabetic human patient and homeostasis..

    • you’re a doctor and you’re saying insulin is not in the brain? how do you think the brain then regulates glycolysis, as this process is the sole means by which it gets energy?

      • Basically, this. Yes, insulin is secreted by the pancreas, yes, OK, but in that huge snaking tendril of domino chips of causality, the pituitary—especially a malfunctioning pituitary, or a hypothalamic lesion—can be to blame.

        This means that any range of illnesses and syndromes, especially horrific “lady problems,” can be attributed to the brain: metabolic; hormonal; physiological; neurological; autoimmune, everything. It is all neurochemistry. Don’t get me started on the thyroid and adrenal glands, you guys.

        Also, everything will change the brain’s neural pathways, from substance abuse to a traumatic experience. Even the point of cognitive behavioral therapy is to remap the brain. Many or most neuroscientists now believe PCOS to be a “neurogonadal” disease, and a few researchers have pointed to “childhood trauma” as predictor of developing a pituitary tumor later in life—almost as if a lump naturally formed on top of the brain’s “panic button” as a precautionary survival measure. Fascinating stuff.

  • and it is completely pernicious that without a medical background, you would continue to make this wrong argument based on your faulty “it follows” reasoning. It does not in fact “follow” if you actually knew more about what you were talking about.

    • wow, HR. first: her, not him. second: i wasn’t talking about the addiction part. i never stated that the tempering of appetite was a huge part of the addiction; i said that it can potentially encourage people to continue to smoke, not physiologically WHY they do.

      it sounded like you were saying that smoking does not potentially lead to insulin resistance, thus why i disagreed with you. i can point you to numerous recent articles from scientific articles, or you can take it up with my professors that taught me this mere weeks ago. also, you can take it up with any family physician that would tell you the same thing. you quite obviously missed the point for which i was arguing, that smoking has been shown to, over a period of time, decrease insulin sensitivity. you are too busy arguing your own point about addiction to see what i am saying.

      • HR intended that response for me and not you, Jess. (I would’ve made similar remarks in reply, though!)

        HR: It is true that I think we overmedicate and paradoxically underdiagnose, so yes, I have absolutely been pernicious. That’s fine. And although I’m not a doctor (ha! that’s sort of funny on its own), I am an unfortunate patron/patient of the art, and I have been taught to be my/my mother’s/my father’s “health advocate.” (Full disclosure: I was suspicious about my father’s too-rapid decline, and I sent him to see some people, but no specialists caught that slow concussion that finally killed him in June. Of course I love doctors and nurses, but I love ’em like I love cops.)

        Despite your admirably strong stance and credentials, I am not changing two short sentences in an aside in a post about Paula Deen. I’m sorry. I am ordinarily not so ruffled when someone takes me to task—someone is always disturbed by something, and I think I am genuinely easygoing—so I apologize for being uncharacteristically nervy about all things metabolic, endocrinological, and pituitary. I don’t know.

        Certainly I don’t mean to be brusque. But if you want your celebrity gossip to be written by medical doctors who share your opinion, rather than the usual entertainment lawyers and psychologists and addled English majors—and I think this might be an interesting vantage, honestly, given the number of Hollywood addictions, overdoses, unsolved deaths, and so on—you should start that blogspot. I am not being snide, here; I’d read it.

      • Agreed, Jenn. That is why I commented in the first place, because if you truly understand what’s going on biologically, you know that many hormonal and neurological processes intertwine. Also, when someone yells “you are misinformed, I’m the expert,” and then touts such silly things as “type 2 diabetics don’t have to worry about hypoglycemia (tell that to my unregulated hprofessor for whom I had to call an ambulance during a crash)” and “the brain doesn’t have insulin receptors,” I become a little suspicious. All in all I think it was more an issue of wording than any true medical misinformation intent. And if someone takes their medical advice from a completely non medical blog written by someone who is admitting only an active interest, then their ate bigger fish to fry. P.s. take a look at the glucostatic theory of satiety and then tell me that in a stable, non-obese (ie the majority of people) patient, short-term satiety isn’t partially modulated by a temporary increase in blood glucose.

  • Ignoring the whole smoking “thing” I guess I was more startled at the end-of-the-world feel of the post. Diabetes II does run in part of my family and did some damage back in the days before there were meds and general knowledge of the disease. I also worked with a lady who has had Type I Diabetes since childhood. She had her insulin in the breakroom refrigerator. Her own children had to do injections as well. She was and is healthy, gorgeous, active and lives a fabulous life. All with Diabetes. It isn’t good news to learn you have Diabetes by any stretch. But as long as a person is smart about it, life will be just fine.

  • Hey Jenn, my two grandmothers have diabetes, but it is just because they are old. There are a lot of people who once they reach will develop diabetes. Both my nans 90 and still going strong!