Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Nutrition Debate #43: Paula Deen, Lessons Learned?

A few weeks ago syndicated columnist Mike Luckovich nailed Paula Deen in one of his brilliant cartoons. In the first panel the blurb says, “I got diabetes from the unhealthy recipes I peddle. Now I’m spokesperson for a diabetes drug…” In this panel she is surrounded by boxes and bags labeled ‘lard,’ ‘butter,’ ‘high fat grease,’ ‘salted sugar,’ and ‘buttered sodium.’ In the second panel the blurb says, “…plus there’s my new book….,” which she’s holding. The title is, “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.” It’s hilarious, even if it is the completely wrong message. Luckovich probably doesn’t know it is the wrong message, but he has to find the message that resonates with the reader, or it isn’t funny in the ridiculous way it needs to be. His humor is about ridicule.

Paula Deen, on the other hand, is criticized for apparently withholding the news of her condition for a couple of years until she could get her drug company endorsement and book deal lined up. Still others, especially in my school of nutrition, criticize her for not using her celebrity status and fan base to educate the public on what caused her to develop Type 2 diabetes. She has released a video on her web site addressing her diabetes, but she is inexplicably silent about which foods were responsible. One wonders if she knows. One wonders if she has not obtained the best advice or if it is just not advantageous (and I mean financially) to advocate a Way of Eating that is not supported by the packaged food industry and big pharma. I hate to be cynical, and I dislike piling on, even if I am just about the last on top of this pile….but Paula Deen is missing a giant opportunity to really do some good and the chance to control her blood sugar without an expensive medication with some scary side effects.

First of all, fat alone didn’t make Paula fat; carbs did: simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. The body is designed to use ‘sugars’ (glucose) before fat. So, if you are burning carbohydrates for energy, any fat you eat that isn’t needed for energy gets stored. That’s the way the body saves energy for intermittent (involuntary) fasting, crop failures, and even occasional famine. We didn’t always have a year-round food supply. Berries and other fruits were seasonal and not nearly as sweet as modern hybrids. My maternal grandparents, who were farmers, kept a root cellar, canned and pickled vegetables, and ‘put up’ preserves to eat during the non-growing season.

Consumption of sugary foods and drinks, like her famous Southern ‘sweet tea,’ puts a big load on the liver (to deal with the fructose in sugar) but also causes the pancreas to work hard to produce enough insulin to deliver glucose to cells. If this glucose is not used through activity and exercise, insulin resistance slowly rises, first in the liver and then in the muscles. Her fat build-up resulted from insulin resistance in the cells to which too much glucose (from the carbs) was being transported by the insulin. Eventually the pancreas gets burned out, and the beta cells that make insulin die. At this point, 80% of all T2’s are obese. It’s good for everyone not to over work their pancreas, even if they are slender.

I’ve never seen the Paula Deen show -- only the video I mentioned – but she is getting a bad rap. Actually, it is the foods that are associated (by Luckovich and the mainstream media) with developing diabetes that are getting the bad rap. Luckovich is only playing to the popular perception that fat makes you fat and diabetic. The truth is fat makes you fat only if you eat it with lots of ‘sugars’ (both simple sugars and refined carbohydrates). And it’s the sugar and refined carbs that over work the pancreas and make you diabetic. But, the federal government (HHS/USDA) still recommends the Standard American Diet (ironically SAD): 60% carbohydrates (300 grams), 10% protein (50 grams), and 30% fat (+/-65 grams) on a 2000 calorie a day diet. That’s way too many carbs.

Cutting carbs back by half or even two-thirds would be good, to 150 or 100 grams of carbohydrate a day, or 30% or 20% of a 2,000 calorie diet, versus 60% in the SAD. Low-carb (LC) could be defined as 50 grams a day, and very low carb (VLC) as 20 or 30 grams a day. Type 2 diabetics (and pre-diabetics) should eat in the VLC range for optimum blood sugar control and easy weight loss. When you eat carbohydrates at that level, all you ‘Paulas’ out there, you can eat butter and cream for energy, feel good and look great. Plus, you will save $500 a month on meds, and avoid the ever increasing list of possible side effects. I made my own oyster stew for lunch guests yesterday (a 1 cup serving: it’s filling), with lots of butter, heavy cream and whole milk. Yum!

© Dan Brown 3/4/12

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