5 Things to learn from Paula Deen’s Diabetes (1/18/12)
Paula Deen has diabetes – for three years. Just as in the movie Casablanca, people are shocked! Shocked! But before demonizing Ms. Deen and her butter filled southern recipes, let’s look at what the public should gain from this overhyped, simplified media story:
- Diabetes – even “adult onset” type II - is highly genetic. There are people who are rail thin and are diabetic –– just as there are highly obese people who are not. We are now experiencing a large sub-population with TOFI – thin outside, fat inside – where ex-models find themselves diabetic while still appearing wasp waisted.. It turns out abdominal fat around organs – a not uncommon result of models’ lifestyles - is by itself an endocrine glan. The more of it there is, the greater the tendency to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is increasingly epidemic in south Asia, where people are more prone even with BMIs that in the west are considered “thin.”
- Diabetes is a systemic disease with systemic causes – it’s not just about weight. You can get diabetes from chronic pancreatitis, and from the autoimmune causes that provoke type I. You can even provoke diabetes with less sleep – people who sleep less than five hours a day have 2.5 times the rate of diabetes than expected.
- Who gets diabetes is not just about food and exercise. The same things that keep your body regenerating – how you move, eat, rest, and socialize – can also decrease diabetic risk. Since most of your body is new in 4 weeks most of us have the chance to direct how our body gets rebuilt. Through different ways of moving, resting, eating, socializing, and dealing with stress, quite a few diabetics who change lifestyle can eliminate diabetes – sadly not possible for Type I sufferers.
- What government, health insurers, schools and individuals should be doing is what they can to prevent diabetes – not figuring out new ways to pay for its treatment. Diabetes is a very big deal as one third of the population may become diabetic by 2030 – a strain on our economy we simply cannot handle. It’s time to get the focus where it needs to be – on health, not health care. Health should be our national goal – a nation where people are productive, engaged, excited about remaking their bodies and using ordinary activities to regenerate themselves. That Ms. Deen joined up with Novo Nordisk to push diabetic drugs is emblematic of how health problems are dealt with in this country – let’s throw more money, drugs and technology at what ails to us – to hell with the causes. What are we doing subsidizing high fructose corn syrup so that the only foods poor people on food stamps can afford make them fatter? Doesn’t it make more sense to not pay to create the problem in the first place? Hopefully Ms. Deen’s revamped cookbooks will be a better deal for the population as a whole – though we should remain skeptical.
- Food is about much more than calories and protein. Ingesting individual foods means imbibing hundreds – even thousands – of different chemicals that change everything from mood to asthma –not just weight. Eating rice you may take in microRNAs that directly change cholesterol synthesis; mice fed lactobacilli are much harder to get depressed or stressed than their genetically identical siblings. And don’ forget you eat changes the ecosystem of 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut, which so far have been linked to asthma and auto-immune diseaseses -and who knows what else.
Food is very complex, and just one issue to address when responding to the national diabetes health care disaster. You are more than you eat; how you move, rest, and socialize at the very least changes your risk of most systemic diseases.
Let’s hope Ms. Deen can change her lifestyle sufficiently as to manage and control diabetes – and demonstrate a way for others to never have the problem at all.
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