Diagnosed With Diabetes? Treatment and Prevention Tips

By: Kristi Tough DeSapri, MD • Posted on January 23, 2012 • Updated April 22, 2020

Diagnosed With Diabetes? Treatment and Prevention Tips

Paula Deen, Food Network’s southern diva, has type 2-diabetes, which she kept hidden from her loyal viewers for three years. Most celebrity chefs, Deen included, are famous for their enticing culinary feats and engaging personalities, not their health secrets.

The fact is diabetes is not glamorous and neither are its complications, including kidney failure nerve damage and vision loss.

Many would say that her diagnosis does not come as a surprise given her trademark style of cooking fried butter balls and ooey-gooey decadent desserts. As Deen herself admits, her comfort food recipes are “for entertainment” and audience members should partake in her creations in moderation or special occasions. We recommend for daily life a Mediterranean cooking lifestyle which includes foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and low fat diary.

Diabetes: Treatment and Prevention

The first line treatment for diabetes and prevention is diet and exercise. In fact, the largest study on diabetes shows that combining diet, exercise and weight loss reduces AIC (measure of blood sugar over three months) almost as much as the medication Metformin, which is the first line treatment for diabetes after diet and exercise.

Prevention of any disease, such as diabetes and heart disease starts with awareness. The following risk factors may increase your chance of developing diabetes:

  • A family history of diabetes (if a parent or sibling in your family has diabetes)
  • Race or ethnic background (the risk of diabetes is greater in Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Asians)
  • Being overweight or obese (body mass index >25 or >30 respectively)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) or heart disease
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels: HDL or "good" cholesterol level under 45 mg/dl for men and 55 mg/dl for women, and/or a triglyceride level over 150 mg/dl
  • Use of certain drugs: Steroid medications (such as prednisone or dexamethasone)
  • Alcohol, especially if you have been a heavy drinker for years
  • Smoking
  • History of gestational diabetes (developing diabetes during pregnancy) or delivery of babies who weigh more than 9 pounds

The American Diabetic Association (ADA) suggests screening for diabetes starting at age 45 if you are overweight (BMI>25 kg/m2) and have one or more risk factors listed above. If the fasting sugar or two-hour oral glucose tolerance test are normal, re-screening every three years is suggested.

The take home message from Deen’s diagnosis is having your cake and eating it too much and too often can lead to diabetes amongst other health hazards such as obesity and heart disease. It’s better to prevent and treat with two key ingredients: diet and exercise before adding the third ingredient: medication.

You can enjoy a bite of that signature southern, decadent dessert from the patron saint of southern cooking, but remember just a bite!

-Kristi Tough DeSapri, MD
Internal Medicine, Northwestern Medical Group
Assistant Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine

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