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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?

When saturated-fat-slinging Food Network star Paula Deen publicly revealed she'd hid her Type 2 diabetes for three years, then simultaneously announced she was endorsing pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk's diabetes drug Victoza, public cries of "hypocrite" and "opportunist" expectedly followed.

But lost in all the media glare was the real reason Novo Nordisk chose Deen.

After the controversy ignited, in an interview for the podcast Pharma Marketing Talk, a representative for Novo Nordisk said the company had approached Deen before it knew she had diabetes. Initially, that might sound hard to swallow. Why would Novo Nordisk ask arguably the most famous unhealthy cook in America to promote its Type 2 diabetes drug, especially before it was aware she suffered from the disease?

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in America, represents roughly 95 percent of all diabetes cases and over 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, pointed out to AlterNet that this doesn't mean that if you're overweight you have Type 2 diabetes, but among people who have it "the vast majority are overweight and could improve or eliminate their symptoms by eating better diets, being more active, and losing weight."

She added, "But nobody makes any money if they do."

As the old saying goes, there's no money in the cure. And as AlterNet confirmed with diabetes experts, there is also no cure in the treatment -- that is, in any pharmaceutical treatment currently available for Type 2 diabetes.

"Medications don't cure diabetes," said Caroline Trapp, director of diabetes education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a clinician who specializes in treating diabetes. "They don't have diabetes because they have a deficiency of Victoza.

"Eighty-four percent of people who have Type 2 diabetes are on medication, either a pill or insulin or a combination, yet very few people have achieved control of their diabetes," Trapp told AlterNet in an interview. "And heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who have diabetes. We're not getting at the underlying problem with all of these diabetes drugs."

There's plenty of research, however, showing that for many people Type 2 diabetes can be treated and even reversed through diet without the need of drugs, such as in the landmark 2006 study funded by the National Institutes for Health and conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine with George Washington University and the University of Toronto. 

The study compared the effects of one group of Type 2 diabetes patients put on a vegan diet with unlimited portions to another group on a diet based on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. The vegan group lowered hemoglobin A1C, an index of long-term blood glucose control, three times more than those in the ADA group, in addition to dramatic comparable decreases in weight loss and in their LDL cholesterol (i.e. bad cholesterol) levels.

But there is an eye-popping amount of money to be made in the thriving billion-dollar diabetes business.

Enter Paula Deen: No other national food personality is better poised to reach the millions of Americans who suffer from Type 2 diabetes and sell them on a "healthy" comfort food diet than the Queen of Southern Cuisine. Recipes that might not be quite as orgiastically fattening and seismically carb-laden as her infamous bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, but which, in the end, will still tether legions of diabetics to its drug.