You may have noticed all the hoopla surrounding the recent announcement that famous southern chef Paula Deen has diabetes. Is anyone surprised? Were we under the impression that somehow she was promoting healthy cooking?
Not knowing anything else about her personal diet, family history, or lifestyle, it came as no surprise to me that she has diabetes because being obese is the number one risk factor a person can have for developing type 2 diabetes. I have seen and read dozens of interviews and reports about this not so ‘newsworthy’ topic and have come to a few conclusions I’d like to share.
First and foremost, someone else’s medical condition is really none of our business and should not dominate the news, even for a day. Especially when it’s an election year and there are so many other issues which should be commanding our attention.
Second, just about every interview I saw or read focused on the notion that the foods Ms. Deen prepares on her show and in her books are high in fat and salt and must have been what led to her diabetes. While this may be true, this is not likely to be the primary cause of Ms. Deen’s diabetes. It is possible to eat a diet high in fat (as much as half of your daily calories) and not develop diabetes, obesity or heart disease. While there are multiple factors that can predispose someone to developing diabetes, diet is by far the most significant contributing factor. Thus it is not the amount of fat or salt one may be eating, but the issue is what else you are eating!
The combination of a diet high in fat and processed carbohydrates in particular (AKA the typical American diet) is toxic to the human body. However, if you pair a diet high in naturally beneficial fats with optimal protein and non-processed carbohydrates (leafy greens, veggies, and some fruits), you have a diet that promotes fat-burning rather than fat storage and decreases inflammation, which directly contributes to heart disease and a plethora of other diseases.
It’s important to understand the importance of getting rid of excess fat in our bodies beyond the impact on our weight and waistlines. We know from recent science and research that adipocytes (fat cells) produce about 100 different substances (cytokines), 99 of which are TOXIC to our bodies and one of which is good for us but unfortunately the more fat we have, the less of this “good” substance (adiponectin) our bodies produce.
In order to burn the fat stored in our bodies, we need to decrease the amount of insulin circulating in our body and the number one way to do this is to limit carbohydrates. Studies show that diets low in carbohydrates and higher in fat (in contrast to governmental recommendations) produce very favorable results in terms of improving or resolving diabetes, decreasing inflammation, improving HDL-C cholesterol and triglycerides and having a neutral effect on total cholesterol and LDL.
For the past 30-40 years, our government and various dietetic entities have been promoting a low fat/higher carbohydrate diet.
The fact that obesity and diabetes have risen dramatically during this time surely tells us that these recommendations are not working. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but for goodness sakes, if it’s broken….FIX IT! Current dietary recommendations are “BROKEN” and in need of serious revision based on unbiased, objective reviews and debates of the scientific evidence to date. It is in this science that we clearly see the favorable effects that a diet low in carbohydrates can produce. We cannot continue to ignore the scientific evidence that low carb diets have shown to be more effective in preventing and reversing diabetes than the other widely recommended diets, including the low fat diet.
As Americans, we cannot continue to simply accept what the government tells us as being true without demanding the science to back it up. We must understand that if it comes from the government, it is often tied to someone else’s bottom line or political party interest and not necessarily in our own best health interest. So, let’s all stop spinning our wheels on whether Ms. Deen’s recent diabetes diagnosis is a direct result of the meals she prepares. Ms. Deen and her condition are none of our business, but it is our business to discuss important issues such as whether a diet high in carbohydrates is harmful and a direct cause of diabetes, as opposed to what the government wants us to believe.