Paula Deen, celebrity chef criticized for diabetes-inducing cuisine, has diabetes

Update: More in the NYT, including details on the drug sponsorship deal.

[Video Link] Never would have seen this coming. Paula Deen is said to be planning to step back from being the public face of her "Southern comfort food" empire to become the celebrity endorsement personality for a diabetes drug, in a "multimillion-dollar" deal with a pharmaceutical company. Deen is famous for popularizing creations like the “Lady’s Brunch Burger” seen in the remixed video above. A beef hamburger patty topped with bacon and a fried egg, served on a glazed donut. It's a "sometime food." (via @attackerman)


  1. Step 1: Hock fatty, buttery, sugary food-bomb creations to middle American, fat, lazy, television addicts.
    Step 2: Hock diabeetus drug to same target audience.
    Step 3: Profit!

      1. “If you suffer from diabetes,  symptoms relating to diabetes,  TMJ from over eating,  muscle strain from holding my cookbooks,  tooth decay and flatulence, this wonderful new medicine might be right for you!”

        1. Side effects include and are not limited to flatulence, diarrhea, vomiting,

          nausea, sweating, frequent urination, halitosis, tremors, loss of memory,

          loss of appetite, sleeplessness, drowsiness, loss of hearing, sight, taste,

          touch and smell.  Consult your doctor if you have or imagine you have any of these symptoms, a deadlier drug will be prescribed.  If you can’t pay for your medication, we can help (wouldn’t want to lose an addict, um, patient).

    1. This is an old business model. If I remember correctly the company that became “Altria” used to sell tobacco products and smoking-cessation products through different subsidiaries, but the same parent co.

    2. If I’ve learned one thing as a fat person, it’s that when you’re fat, people feel they have license to speculate on your diet, health, exercise and most importantly, your moral character. 

      The first comment here takes the (delicious & fattening) metaphorical cake, by conflating Deen and her illness (the circumstances of which you frankly know nothing about) with everything we’re told is wrong with Americans– well, the fat ones who live in the middle of the country and watch a lot of TV. 

      Certainly not the svelte coastal elites who simply make the media that the poor fat lazy losers consume.

      It’s good to feel superior, ain’t it?

      1. If I’ve learned one thing as a fat person, it’s that when you’re fat, people feel they have license to speculate on your diet, health, exercise and most importantly, your moral character.

        Paula Deen makes her living by encouraging people to shovel huge quantities of corn syrup and shortening into their aptly-named pie-holes. She’s not some innocent victim of fat bashing; she’s the Pope of shitty, disease-causing diets. She can take the heat.

        1. Does Deen really encourage people to eat like that every day? And is she solely responsible for other peoples’ food choices? Do you believe everything you see on TV? Or is it just dumb Middle Americans who do what TV hosts tell them to do?

          Come on, it’s pretty obvious from the first comment and the 49 likes (and Xeni endorsement) it received that the real issue here is “fat, lazy Middle Americans.” It’s a trifecta of social hatreds, all neatly expressed through an attack on Paula Deen. It’s revealing that you compare Deen to the Pope and diets to religion, since the war on obesity has the character of a moral crusade. 

          Deen makes a living teaching comically rich recipes for Southern Food. As far as I know, she never pissed on anyone’s corpse. 

          1. Come on.  There might be a place for your top comment, but hanging it off a story about someone who did indeed make “a living teaching comically rich recipes for Southern Food?”

            It’s not like she was a Zen Macrobiotic role model.

          2. @google-186f0f6d339a5570852f4f08cf3683c2:disqus First Antinous mentions the Pope and now you mention Zen. Again, I’d like to point out the way religious metaphor and morality encode every discussion around obesity and diet. But hey, I get it. The Pope is evil and Buddhism is cool. The former is about excess and the latter is about self deprivation, or something?

      2. Being fat means one thing and one thing only: You take in, by too great a margin, more energy than you expend. So it is in all fairness pretty reasonable to be speculating on your diet, health and exercise.

          1. Well, isn’t it a reasonable conclusion? It has no bearing on morality, personality, or anything, but you grow when you eat too much…

          2. Let’s try this in layman’s terms. Paula Deen’s health is none of your fucking business.

            She’s a public figure. She makes a career of encouraging people to destroy their own health. She made her own health information public. She made it everybody’s business.

    1. No one here would wish suffering or chronic disease on anyone.

      The sort of food she’s become rich promoting is linked to obesity and attendant health disorders like type 2 diabetes if consumed regularly, and in the sort of portions suggested. If you ate what Paula Deen promotes on her TV show every day, you will get very very sick with this sort of disorder.

      Genetics also play a role in type 2 diabetes, and other factors, and no one should think of disease as a punishment for someone being “bad.”

      So, not so much “serves you right” as “this was a predictable outcome,” and how further predictable that there would be a way to profit even from the sickness by marketing drugs to fellow sufferers. Not a mea culpa on the food, but selling something new.

      This is one chronic disease for which there is a clear lifestyle solution for many: a healthier diet, exercise, and avoid Lady’s Brunch Burgers.

      1. Live by the deep-fried Krispy Kreme triple bacon cheddar burger, die by the deep-fried Krispy Kreme triple bacon cheddar burger.

        I wish her all the best. 

      2. Actually, I do put it well past you and your fellow Boingers to wish chronic disease on others.

        I guess I was thinking about how this is playing out in more cosmic Internet terms and in the minds of many.

      3. Dear Xeni –

        While you certainly make an interesting case, it’s not entirely fair or honest to say Paula Deen recommends people consume food in the proportions she eats.

        There is an economic truth at work here, which is that the average household in North America could not afford to purchase food stuffs in the quantities required to keep up with even 7 days of her programming for breakfast, snack, lunch, second lunch, aftersnack, and dinner. Consider the perspective of a large family (i.e. 2 adults and more than one child) with an average income of under $32,000 and you could see how eating like a Deeniac would quickly become a choice between saving for college, having a house, or even aftermarket automobile upgrades. She considers this before she prepares her shows.

        Without going so far as to suggest you are baised against the obese, have you considered the idea that her diabetes could be casued by some other factor? Paula Deen sits on a lot of things which could be the root driver behind her condition, and it is important to have some sympathy for someone who could have achieved exposure through no fault of her own.

        Paul Prudhomme

    2. Serves her right I guess? Is that supposed to be my response?

      Live by the doughnut, die by the doughnut. I’m pretty sure it’s in the Bible.

  2. What’s next, Nigella for Lipitor? Some great legal drugs we’ve got there..At my work place, I sit beside 2 guys who are stressed all the time, eat dinner at 11:00 pm the previous night, smoke, and eat like crap. They take acid reflux meds, a couple of others related I’m sure to make them “feel” better.

    1. Nigella is a pretty healthy size; and her cooking is not full of fat.  Nigel Slater, on the other hand – how he is not the size of a house with a quad bypass is beyond me.  The man loves him some butter.

  3. As a Type 1 Diabetic I’ve been lobbying my local medical community to re-name Type 2 Diabetes to “Fat people disease”.  
    I hate the implied connection between the two.

    1. As someone claiming to be a diabetic you sure don’t sound like you know what you’re talking about there.  One doesn’t have to be fat to get type 2 diabetes.  In fact, doctors generally have a harder time with skinny people that have it or at high risk for it than with heavier people since they think they’re “healthy” because they’re thin.  People’s bodies are different, in part due to lifestyle and in part due to genetics.

  4. It’s not karma, though. Karma is a mysterious supernatural payback, while this is just an absurdly unhealthy lifestyle followed to it’s natural conclusion.

    1. It’s not karma, though. Karma is a mysterious supernatural payback, while this is just an absurdly unhealthy lifestyle followed to it’s natural conclusion.

      Actually, karma is the effect part of cause and effect. Everything is karma unless you believe in effect without cause.

  5. I has a mild confusion: Lady’s Brunch Burger is described as a regular doughnut + protein + fat.  Eating a doughnut as part of a meal is to take in more sugar than accompanies most “regular” meals, but is not extraordinary.  Wouldn’t eating two donuts for breakfast or some such be much more diabetes-inducing than her recipe?    I’m not a Deen fan or anything; haven’t seen her show, so maybe I’m not aware of her more diabetes-inducing recipes?  I thought she was a champion of using butter, which I’ve never associated with diabetes.

    1. Go look at some of her recipies on her network’s website.  Excessive butter is the tip of the unhealthy iceburg in Mrs. Deen’s kitchen.

    2. Diabetes isn’t about the sugar you eat… it’s about blood sugar. Sure, one of the main dangers for a diabetic is that a lot of refined carbohydrates (*not* just sugar… white rice and flour are almost as bad as sugars) will send blood sugar sky-high really quickly, which can induce all sorts of nasty effects (seizures, coma,  and even death in the worst cases). 

      However, fat and protein also get metabolized into blood sugar, just more slowly. So, the sugar and other refined carbs in the donuts will spike your blood sugar levels*, then keep it pegged as your body processes the protein and fat into blood sugar. This prolonged high sugar level is what really damages  your body.

      (* Actually, the initial punch from the sugars is blunted by fats… at least according to my nutritionist. That’s why if your blood sugar is low, you should have pure carbs first to boost it, then later have protein and fat to stabilize it. Still, the overall effect is to raise your blood sugar too high and keep it there for a long time.)

  6. Well if Larry the Cable Guy is shilling Prilosec, it was only a matter of time before this happened. Paula Deen not only reinforces the fat American stereotype who doesn’t possess any personal responsibility, she celebrates it. Eat up America, they’ll make a pill for it.

  7. Just an FYI. The Krispy Kreme burger was done as a gag. I am friends with her old personal assistant. Not an endorsement of her in any way.

    1. Yeah. The thing is, it is so believable a gag from her that it really does speak to what she really did cook. 

  8. We should not live just to be alive. Each person should decide for themselves the best balance in the tradeoff between hedonism and health.

    1. Agreed.  There are 2 ways of thinking on how to live your life, with many gray areas between. 
      Option 1, live your life and do what you want, eat what you want, go where you like, say what you think, etc.(only 80 spins around the sun and the games over folks, make it count).
      Option 2, live your life like it doesnt matter, make no impact, dont speak your mind, dont do things people say are bad for you, dont eat what you wish. (wasted life if you ask many)

      I for one choose a life well lived, I eat what I want, I go 155mph on one wheel, I challenge life and live it to its fullest.  Surely riding my bike at 186mph occasionally is much more dangerous to my life than eating ever last thing Paula has ever made….I mean what the Funk is the point of living to be 100 years old if every last year was prude, sterile, pathetic, and homogenized?

      I would much rather die doing something I loved than live not doing it.

    2. You know, economists are just about giving up on “revealed preferences,” the idea that peoples true values can be seen in their choices.  It was old economic theory that if someone (hypothetically) ate themselves to diabetes, then they valued the trip even knowing the destination.  We aren’t actually that smart, as a species.  Our decisions are situational and disconnected.

      That kind of real human can indeed end up some place they didn’t really want.

      1. I agree that we’re pretty bad at deciding for ourselves (typically over-weighting the short-term benefits). But we are even worse at deciding for others (typically over-weighting the long-term benefits).

  9. I really don’t understand all the hate that Paula Deen gets, and I really didn’t expect this level of rhetoric from BoingBoing either.  If you buy a cookbook for desserts, for example, you don’t go home and eat desserts for every meal for the rest of your life.  No one would write an article like this about the authors of Baked, the dessert cookbook, even though the dishes are rich and not healthy.    For some reason Paula Deen gets vilified for making a cookbook that isn’t what everyone likes to eat or can be eaten for every meal, but how many cookbooks are really like that?  This article and comment section are just dripping with self-righteous patting yourselves on the back for this woman having Type 2 diabetes. Don’t be so smug about someone having a disease, not matter how much you dislike them or think that they deserve it. 

      1. Watch the video, then  read the comments.  For example: ‘I’ve been lobbying my local medical community to re-name Type 2 Diabetes to “Fat people disease”‘ from ClayE above.  People really seem to hate her because she doesn’t cook health food.  Otherwise Xeni wouldn’t have even posted this.  It’s not newsworthy or interesting unless people have strong negative or positive feelings about her or what she does.  The article isn’t titled “64 year old woman gets type 2 diabetes,”  it is specifically targeting her because she cooks food that  isn’t heath food and she is popular.  It’s a pat-on-the-back article to make people who don’t like her feel justified in their self-righteousness.  Can BoingBoing go back to covering SOPA please!  :/

        Also, you used irony to mean the exact opposite of what it means. 

        1. Congrats on finding one comment to almost back up your “hate” narrative.

          People really seem to hate her because she doesn’t cook health food.

          I don’t sense the “hate” that you keep speaking of. Maybe they find her completely irresponsible for pushing and celebrating a kind of cooking that leads to obesity and disease, in a country that already outpaces most others when it comes to those problems.

          1. And deliberately skipping over Xeni’s reasonable explanation of why this got posted.  

            yes *1* crass example in an otherwise civil comment thread…….

  10. I have type 2 diabetes. I keep it a secret from people from almost everyone because it’s not fun being the target of all the “well meaning” advice completely ignorant people foist on you when they find out, not to mention the heavy dose of “well you kind of deserve it” and “you must be really mad at your parents for feeding you so much when you were a kid” that inevitably arises. In the last 2 years, I have gotten it completely under control through a combination of diet, exercise and medication. I’m within 10 pounds of my “ideal” body weight for the first time in my life. Of course, I still dread being in a social eating situation and having to come up with an excuse as to why I can or can’t eat particular items being served. 

    It’s especially infuriating coming from those who smoke, drink, are less active, eat worse, and yet have somehow won the genetic lottery so that they don’t (at least not yet) develop the disease.

    As for type 1 sufferers: I feel for you, really I do. It’s a major pain in the ass, and it never goes away, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. You shouldn’t have to share the reflected shame from those of us who lost a different genetic lottery. As for being judgmental about type 2s… I respectfully refer the gentleman to the reply given in Arkell v. Pressdram.

  11. As a Southerner I have always been bothered by her misrepresentations of Southern cuisine. It has a rich and diverse history and she continually ignores. 

    1. “It has a rich and diverse history and she continually ignores.”

      Thankfully there’s Alton Brown.

      1. Alton Brown still doesn’t look well, but he looks better than he did a couple of years ago when he went on an extreme diet of sardines and avocados.

  12. My only problem with Paula Deen is how she uses the same Photoshop filter as child beauty queens on her magazine covers (super bright, saturated skin and manga-eyes). Scares the crap outta me every time I’m in the grocery checkout line.

  13. Paula Deen has overcome a lot in her life dealing with her own mental illness.  But, I really wish she’d sought more help for her issues before hitting the airwaves and spreading this kind of evil donut madness to an already terribly obese American public.

    Spawn of Satan Smithfield.  Giant, evil corporatist “farming” lapdog… from hell.

  14. From the Kathy Lee school of acting: every time you eat something on camera, fake an orgasm.  Still, it is tragic, if the Huts had only listened to Wilford Brimley…  

  15. Now I see clearly, instead of merely reporting the information it is a writers duty to direct their audience and pass judgment.  Really nice of BB to kick deen in the teeth for catching diabetes.   1. she is allowed to make/eat whatever she likes. 2. Some producer made her a show and probably even increased her “bad for you food” intake.  3. People watched the show, either to laugh or to get ideas.  4. Diabetes may or may not have happened to her either way, one can assume all they like, but it cannot be proven her diet was to blame.  5. Disease can strike anyone, its not like people arent getting cancer at an alarming rate from everything from cigarettes to electromagnetic fields.  6. I dont honestly care if the lady got diabetes from eating her own cooking or from genetics, I also couldnt care less if she makes money off of a diabetes drug.  More power to her, good for her.  Many of your readers would have a show beating baby seals if it paid them enough, or spit on a homeless man only to feed a homeless dog. 

    8.  I suppose I should expect more from intellectuals but then again, No.  I suppose you think you are better than her because you are thin and would never eat things she cooks.  It is my contention that you are in fact not better than her, at least morally, for she would accept you for who you are and not pass judgment, especially in her time of need after finding out she has diabetes.  Nothing like a good kick in the teeth when you are down and out, pathetic, you should all be ashamed of yourself.

    1. There are social issues revolving around overweight, but should the social issues really trump the health issues?  Your first comment is “1. she is allowed to make/eat whatever she likes.”

      Well, until someone repeals biochemistry, “intellectuals” might have a problem with that.

  16. Could we please start doing our homework, here? This was based on a story with tenuous (at best) sources on an online news site that has been around for less than a year. There’s no confirmation, but everyone’s jumped on the “OMG the butter queen has diabetes!” bandwagon without a shred of reliable evidence that this is the case, mostly because everyone seems to *want* to believe that Paula is getting some kind of comeuppance for appearing to live a lifestyle that isn’t socially sanctioned. 

    Do you guys think she eats every meal like the meals on her show? Get real. She probably doesn’t even develop the majority of the recipes on her show. She has people for that. Some Food Network exec figured out a long time ago that Paula’s personality plus a devilish amount of butter equals food porn ratings. So they play it up. If you look at her restaurant menu, you see a much better balance–and many of “Paula’s favorites” aren’t unhealthy at all.If you want to write a good post, check into the veracity of these claims–notice the flimsiness of the evidence on which people leapt onto the “Butter Queen Gets Diabetes” train. This says a LOT more about modern media than it does about Paula Deen.

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