Paula Deen, Diabetes and You

By now you’ve probably heard the news: Paula Deen has Type II Diabetes. She’s had it for years, all while she’s been hawking her brand of fat and calorie laden nightmarish food. Okay, that’s not fair. Lots of people love that kind of food, but you must know how bad for you it really is.

Now, not only is she going to be continuing her food empire, she’s also the new face for “Diabetes in a New Light,” a promotional campaign for Novo Nordisk’s Victoza®. That particular medication is a non-insulin drug used to improve the function of several of the hormones involved in diabetes.

From their website, right under Paula’s smiling face and in bold print:

In animal studies, Victoza® caused thyroid tumors—including thyroid cancer—in some rats and mice. It is not known whether Victoza® causes thyroid tumors or a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) in people which may be fatal if not detected and treated early. Do not use Victoza® if you or any of your family members have a history of MTC or if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2). While taking Victoza®, tell your doctor if you get a lump or swelling in your neck, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, or shortness of breath. These may be symptoms of thyroid cancer.

Um, do you really want to have to take a drug with that kind of a potential side effect?

Who am I to be pointing that out? After all, I prescribe psychotropic medication to children, for crying out loud. They have terrible side effects (including that some cause diabetes). I know, you’re thinking: pot, meet kettle.

All medications have side effect, and some are more serious than others. When you’re someone who prescribes medication, you’re constantly doing a risk-benefit analysis, e.g., is the risk of harm from what I’m treating greater than the risk of harm from the treatment? Is there another treatment that might work as well or better with less harm? Will the patient be able to benefit from this other treatment before harm is done?

With Type II Diabetes, there is a non-drug alternative for many people. Regardless of how you got it- genetics, overweight, inactivity, etc.- changes in lifestyle will often be all you need to manage your diabetes (I know that you know that you have to be working with your health professional on that. You didn’t? Well, now you do).

But let’s give Paula some credit: it looks like Paula wants to de-stigmatize diabetes. That’s good, right?

You shouldn’t have to be ashamed that you have diabetes. There may come a point in your life with some factors that make it really difficult to avoid. Some medications might make it impossible to avoid, even with good lifestyle choices. And maybe you already have it. On the other hand, if it is within your power, you want to do everything to avoid or delay its onset.

A plant-based diet and some moderate exercise can go a long way towards thwarting diabetes.

I’m hoping that I don’t need to list out all the reasons you want to avoid Type II Diabetes, because I’m sure you know about things like blindness, limb amputation and heart disease. So how about we let Paula do what Paula has to do, and we’ll all work towards living healthy lives?

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