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MCCULLOUGH: Deen could've helped educate about diabetes

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

I have Type II diabetes. Unlike Paula Deen, I have never hidden that fact.

Deen's admission that she has the disease is maybe the least surprising news item I've ever heard. Her recipes are loaded with fat, salt and/or sugar and eating that way over a lifetime causes myriad health problems. Believe me, I know. I'm on my fourth year of a very long turnaround with my own health, and I have a long way to go. And for the record, I blame no one but myself. It's no more Deen's fault than it is Burger King's. No one put a gun to my head.

But it is disturbing to me, however, that Deen chose to hide her diabetes for three years while simultaneously continuing to promote the type of fare that contributes to the disease.

Deen, like it or not, has an influence on what people eat, especially here in the South. Through her television shows, books, magazine articles and restaurant -- and the fact that her recipes taste so doggone good -- Deen has been responsible for promoting a way of cooking for which the South is famous.

But the South is also famous for leading lists of most-obese and least-healthy states. And while the availability of cheap, fast food is a big contributor to that, so is our love for big, lard-laden dinners topped with salt and chased with desserts loaded with butter and sugar.

Deen not only promotes that love, she makes her living off it. So it doesn't take a detective to figure out that the diabetes admission is a public relations nightmare for a food empire built of butter. From a business standpoint, I understand the delay in her revelation.

But then when she did reveal it, she also dropped this on us: She would be a paid spokesmen for diabetes medication.

Wait a minute. The rest of us Type IIs eat that junk for years and end up paying for shelves full of pill bottles that she is going to get paid to pitch?

Smart business decisions? Yes. Ethical decisions? Questionable.

It's not Deen's fault we're fat. She didn't give anyone diabetes. She has every right to make a living off promoting Southern culture and cooking. And ultimately it is incumbent upon individuals to do their research to make informed decisions. But the lady could've at least said something sooner.

She didn't have to change a thing, although creating some healthier versions of her dishes -- the way her son has done on his cooking show -- would've been admirable. I would've been OK with her saying, "Hey, I've got diabetes and this way of cooking can contribute to that, so practice a little moderation, y'all." Then she could've gone right on heaping on the butter and lard in the light of full disclosure. Hiding it for so long and then announcing an endorsement deal gives a dimmer reflection.

And speaking of the endorsement deal, I'd like to offer Deen a little advice: Much like the weight problem that causes it in the first place, there is no magic pill for Type II diabetes. The pills help -- nothing more. It's a good diet and exercise program that pulls you back from the brink of being insulin-dependent. It's only in the past few months that I've come to understand the true effectiveness of that information.

Deen has a much larger platform than I have. She can pitch that information along with her food and meds and reach a much wider audience. She could've been doing it for the past three years.

She didn't have to.

But it would've been nice, y'all.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.