SIUH Diabetes Educator and Doctor weigh in on Paula Deen


Debate over Paula Deen and diabetes

Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2012, 10:10 AM     Updated: Wednesday, February 01, 2012, 10:17 AM
Staten Island Advance  
PAULA.jpg At age 65, celebrity chef Paula Deen is one of more than 25 million Americans living with diabetes, most of whom have Type 2 (aka adult-onset) diabetes. (Associated Press)
TAKE CARE/Tips from Staten Island University Hospital  
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - ALL SHORES - For most people, celebrity chef Paula Deen's revelation that she has Type 2 diabetes was far from earth- shattering. Years of championing and eating her deep-fried and butter-drenched Southern recipes seem to have taken a toll on the portly Food Network star. 

At age 65, Ms. Deen is one of more than 25 million Americans living with diabetes, most of whom have Type 2 (aka adult-onset) diabetes. 

But just how much does diet affect your risk for developing this disease? 

"It's a risk factor, but there are many risk factors," said Mary Gundersen, a certified diabetes educator and registered nurse at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH). "Being overweight, which, of course, can come from an unhealthy diet that's high in fat and sugars, does increase the risk, but genetics, age and a sedentary lifestyle also come into play." 

Ms. Deen admits to making some changes to her lifestyle since being diagnosed with the condition three years ago. After years of not exercising, she's hitting the tread mill for 30 minutes a day and taking Victoza, a noninsulin injectable diabetes medication that she is now promoting. 

According to Dr. Jeffrey Rothman, director of SIUH's division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, Victoza is part of a new class of medicines, which also includes the drug Byetta. These new medications are extremely important in managing Type 2 diabetes, he said. 

"They act to replace or supplement native GLP-1, which is a hormone made by the intestine that's necessary for helping to regulate mealtime and to some extent, overnight blood sugar," said Dr. Rothman. 

In addition to revving up the body's regulatory system for insulin output, these drugs also can aid in weight reduction by causing users to feel full longer and eat less. 


Ms. Deen also has vowed to cut back on the unhealthy foods she eats, but that modification may not be enough, said Ms. Gundersen. 
"I think she would have to do more than portion control," said the diabetes educator, who leads support groups and diabetes self-management classes for diabetics at the hospital's Ocean Breeze campus. "I know the foods that she makes are very high in fat and sugar, so she would have to choose healthier foods than the ones that she's cooking on her show." 

For example, Ms. Deen could substitute margarine for butter or applesauce for oil in her baked goods. 

At the hospital, Ms. Gundersen works with a registered dietitian to help diabetics learn about nutrition and meal planning. The instruction is part of a seven-week class aimed at teaching patients how to manage their condition through diet, exercise and monitoring their blood sugar levels. 

Many of those who attend Ms. Gundersen's classes had mixed reactions to Ms. Deen's diabetes disclosure on national TV, said the educator. 

However, Dr. Rothman defended Ms. Deen's right to have kept her condition private for the last three years, as well as her right to share her traditional recipes. 

"The fact that she has diabetes or any other disorder is nobody's business," said Dr. Rothman. "She teaches a style of cooking that many of us find counterproductive in managing diabetes, but I don't hold her responsible for people with diabetes, except for herself. All of us need to learn to make our own diet choices, especially if diet is a part of one's own health care." 

For more information about diabetes support groups or classes offered at Staten Island University Hospital, call 718-226-1547
This column is provided as a public service by Staten Island University Hospital. It was written by Diane O'Donnell who is employed by SIUH. 

© 2012 SILive.com. All rights reserved.

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