January 17th, 2012
09:04 AM ET
Paula Deen, star of the Food Network’s “Paula’s Best Dishes,” built her reputation on traditional Southern favorites such as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, sweet tea and butter - lots and lots of butter.
For years her show and articles such as “7 Things Paula Deen Fried - and Ate” sparked rumors that the cooking icon had diabetes. She was often criticized for promoting food high in fat and calories at a time when about a third of American adults are considered obese.
Now Deen is going public with a diagnosis she received three years ago during a regular checkup with her doctor: She has Type 2 diabetes.
“I’m great,” she said on NBC’s "Today' show Tuesday morning. “I’m here today to let the world know that it is not a death sentence.”
Deen said keeping her diagnosis a secret for so long wasn’t a choice based on protecting her reputation. “I wanted to bring something to the table when I came forward,” she said on "Today."
About 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates another 79 million Americans over age 20 have pre-diabetes, or elevated glucose levels.
There are two major forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 is the most common. Type 2 is often called adult-onset diabetes because it develops over time due to low activity levels and a poor diet that causes excess body weight.
Diabetes can lead to kidney failure, blindness, lower limb amputations, heart disease and stroke. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC.
Type 2 diabetes is like Russian roulette, Deen told USA Today on Monday in her first interview about her diagnosis. "It's about heredity. It's about age, lifestyle, race. I'm the only one in my family who has it. My grandmother cooked and ate like I ate, and she didn't have it."
Still, the jokes about butter are flying - from bloggers mocking the irony of her spokeswoman deal to articles such as “The Paula Deen Dishes Paula Deen Shouldn’t Eat.” On the "Today" show, Deen rejected the criticism.
“I’ve always encouraged moderation. On my show I share with you all these yummy, fattening recipes, but I tell people, in moderation. In moderation, you can have that little piece of pie,” she said.
“Honey I’m your cook, not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.”
USA Today reported that Deen is walking a mile or more a day on a treadmill and is no longer drinking sweet tea to keep her sugar under control. She has dropped a clothing size since her diagnosis, according to the paper.
For more, visit Health.com: Deen may face uphill battle against diabetes
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.