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The Truth Behind Why High Calorie Chef Paula Deen Is Pushing Diabetes Drug

Why ask the most famous unhealthy cook in America to promote a diabetes drug before anyone knew she suffered from diabetes?

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Case in point is Novo Nordisk and Paula Deen's inaugural recipe for its "Diabetes in a New Light" campaign -- a semi-reduced-fat seven-cheese beef lasagna. 

In an interview with Ambre Morley, the Novo Nordisk representative who said the company approached Deen before knowing of her diagnosis, she reconfirmed this timing to AlterNet and defended the company's choice of Deen.

Why choose the national face of unhealthful cuisine to promote Victoza and dream up recipes for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes?

"Because she's also actually one of the most relatable, friendliest, warmest people in the country and people relate to her," said Morely. "And her food is something that a lot of people eat. So it was something that we looked at as a challenge to her."

In response to Morley and Novo Nordisk approaching Deen before knowing her diabetes condition, NYU's Nestle said, "Taking the rep's comment at face value, the mind boggles. Or perhaps the drug company was trying to convey the message, 'Take our drug and you won't have to worry about what you eat or all that pesky diet, exercise, and weight loss.'"

Nestle calls weight loss "the elephant in the Type 2 diabetes room."

She and other experts fault not just the drug companies but also the American Diabetes Association, the leading advocacy diabetes group, for not putting enough emphasis on weight loss for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes.

In fact, according to a corporate sponsor document examined by AlterNet, the ADA -- whose stated primary mission is "to prevent and cure diabetes" -- received a total $16.9 million from pharmaceutical companies in 2010. The document also reveals that the ADA's largest contributor was none other than Novo Nordisk at $3.4 million. 

Experts like Nestle point out that Big Pharma's money influences the ADA's suggested dietary practices, which once again, in the end, keep people dependent on their diabetes drug cycle and keep Novo Nordisk and other drug companies flush with revenue.

So maybe it shouldn't be surprising that the ADA itself recently published a cookbook titled The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook, which seems to mirror the dietary approach taken by Novo Nordisk and Paula Deen. Or that Paul Deen, in an effort to quell criticism, announced that she will donate a portion of her Novo Nordisk earnings to the ADA. 

Nestle expressed shock at the $16.9 million figure uncovered by AlterNet, but she's had little faith in the ADA for years.

"As far as I can tell, the American Diabetes Association sold out to the drug industry a long time ago," she said, adding, "It's hard to imagine how the ADA could push non-pharmacological interventions and still get millions a year from drug companies."


Steve Wosahla, ADA managing director for corporate alliances, told AlterNet that his organization sees no issue with receiving this money.  

"We don't think there's a conflict of interest," said Wosahla. "We think that the funds that the drug companies, or really any company, can provide just helps us to enhance our mission and deliver better programs."  

He added, "Each grant or each agreement is really subject to our policies and our guidelines."  

Asked if he believed that the ADA's own internal policies and guidelines in accepting millions of dollars a year from drug companies would suffice to answer charges of untoward influence, Wosahla replied, "We're comfortable with the approach we're taking and that it's disclosed." 

In light of the Paula Deen controversy, ADA group director of education Geralyn Spollett recently told the New York Times, "You can't just eat your way to Type 2 diabetes," which Nestle said typifies the ADA's stance.