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Paula Deen Has Diabetes

By Michael Smith, MD
WebMD Chief Medical Editor

OK, let’s get it out of the way. No, it’s no huge surprise that the queen of Southern food has type 2 diabetes. But it’s still upsetting news to me – and this boy from Georgia (also Paula Deen’s home state) loves watching her and I don’t even like to cook!

She never shies away from her love of all things fatty. Needs more butter, ya’ll!! Followed by that wonderful laugh. But in the back of my mind, I always feared that her story would take this all too common turn. And of course I was also a bit concerned that others were actually eating like this all the time.

WebMD has reported on the epidemic of diabetes many times – at the latest count 26 million of us have diabetes. And 7 million of us don’t even know it. That’s why it’s so critically important to talk to your doctor about getting tested – it’s a simple blood test.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin, the hormone that processes sugar in the body, cannot keep pace with rising blood sugar levels. High blood sugars over time increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.

While you can certainly get type 2 diabetes without being overweight, there is no question that our unhealthy lifestyle, and particularly America’s obesity problem, is behind the astronomical rise in type 2 diabetes. Shockingly, last year CDC experts predicted that that a third of us – yes, a third of us! — will have diabetes by 2050 if we stay on our current obesity path.

Despite Paula apparently having had diabetes for 3 years, here’s how I hope the rest of her story plays out. She is amazingly popular. We love to watch her cook and eat. She makes us happy. I want Paula to be around for a long time, so all of us can enjoy that infectious laugh for years to come.

Paula is reportedly keen on not letting diabetes interfere with her life. That’s great! Of course it takes some work, but you can live life to the fullest even if you have diabetes (hopefully that doesn’t mean fried mac n’ cheese on a regular basis). Eating healthy can still be delicious and full of laughter.

Paula is reportedly focusing on making some of her delicious meals friendlier for people with diabetes. By the way, there is no “diabetes diet.” People with diabetes should eat the same healthy diet of low saturated fat, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains that we should all eat. So when Paula comes out with that low-fat mac n’ cheese, give it a shot! You know it’ll be good.

I hope Paula, with the support of her loves ones, can find the power within herself to turn things around. And who better to take us along with her?! If anyone can do it, she can MAKE us want to eat healthy. As we watch her shed the pounds, I hope she motivates others to come along for the ride.

I know I’ll be watching her closely and cheering her on. Please join me in wishing Paula and the millions of people living with diabetes many healthy years to come. As Paula always so charmingly says, the medical team and all of us at WebMD wish you best (healthy) dishes, ya’ll!

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