Political scandals? A dime a dozen.
What we don’t often see is a culinary/medical/media scandal as outrageous as TV chef Paula Deen’s recent admission that she has had Type 2 diabetes for three years.
Family history and genes play a large role in this often debilitating disease, but activity level, excess body weight and poor diet are just as dangerous, according to the National Library of Medicine. Deen, 65, is also a smoker who shuns exercise.
She is a former restaurant operator in Savannah, Ga., the author of five cookbooks and has had a relationship with the Food Network since 1999.
She is famous for her flamboyant personality and Southern cooking style that relies heavily on multiple sticks of butter and pounds of bacon.
Deen has been heavily criticized by health advocates and other chefs for her unhealthy reliance on fat, salt and sugar in her recipes.
She was most severely condemned for the “Lunch-Box Set,” a cookbook for children.
“You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast,” said interviewer Barbara Walters. “You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And french fries. Doesn’t it bother you that you’re adding to this (obesity epidemic)?”
A $10 million annual income can apparently ease even the most guilty conscience.
It is no coincidence that the regional diet Deen teaches people to cook has left a wide swatch of Southern states with the highest obesity rates in the nation.
But here’s the twin scandal to the Deen revelations:
First, that she waited three years to tell people that the diet she was teaching them to cook was killing her.
Second, that she only made the announcement after inking a lucrative contract with the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which claims to be an industry leader in diabetes care, an unfortunate growth industry in the U.S.
Would she have said anything at all without the drug-company contract? We doubt it.
Deen says she will continue showing people how to cook her unhealthy brand of cuisine, although she will probably start telling them to “practice moderation” a little louder than before.
Meanwhile, she will donate some unspecified portion of her Novo Nordisk loot to diabetes research.
One TV viewer interviewed by The Associated Press put Deen’s announcement in perspective: “It would be like someone who goes on TV and brags about how wonderful it is to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day and then when he or she gets lung cancer, becomes a paid spokesperson for nicotine patches.”
Several other celebrity chefs were gagging on the news of Deen’s announcement.
“When your signature dish is a hamburger in between a doughnut, and you’ve been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you’ve got Type 2 diabetes, it’s in bad taste, if nothing else,” said chef Anthony Bourdain.
In case anyone has forgotten, about a third of the adults in this country are obese, while another third are overweight. Nearly 17 percent of children are obese and another 15 percent overweight.
This quickly emerging health-care crisis will cost us billions of dollars as these people age and develop Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
When that crisis hits, Deen will be sitting on a pile of cash to pay for her medical care. Millions of her followers and their families won’t be as fortunate.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.