Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Obesity: The “N” Word & Paula Deen

The celebrity “Southern” cook Paula Deen was essentially fired by the Food Network for bad behavior including use of the N word.  In reading about this incident I ran across the picture below of loyal fans lined up outside her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia waiting to eat.  The N word aside, this photo is a perfect example of the obesity epidemic in America, and raises the question of how and why we celebrate people who promulgate too much of a good tasting thing.  Are there celebrity smoking and drinking advocates?  Are there celebrity drive too fast advocates?  Are there celebrity unsafe sex advocates?  Do these folks, if they exist, get their own TV shows?



Southern Cooking & The “Stroke Belt”

Diet matters and Southern Cooking and other unhealthy behaviors (smoking, inactivity, and obesity) have been implicated as causes of the so-called stroke belt which is shown in the first map below.  It shows a region of the country where strokes are an especially big problem and other markers of public health are typically low.  Obesity is also associated with about a 40% increase in health care costs that we all share one way of the other through health insurance premiums, taxes for programs like Medicare and Medicaid, or government disability payments.  The second map shows the impact of these behaviors on life expectancy.  The life expectancy data are confounded by things like poverty, race and education that seem to interact with all sorts of behavioral risk factors and determine who gets what disease and dies when.  Paradoxically the data in the second map also shows that there are areas of the country with life expectancy values that rival those seen in places like Scandinavia and even Japan.









I am not sure we need to become a country of food puritans, but I do think we need recognize that these problems are not going to go away unless we do something, and cleaning up the countries diet, especially in the stroke belt might be a good start.  The other interesting thing about the stroke belt is that it is a region of the country devoted to the rhetoric of “small government” and “individual responsibility”, but the data suggests that these philosophies are difficult for people to practice and that maybe Mayor Bloomberg is right.  Denial is typically not a good policy and it is never a smart policy.



2 Responses to “Obesity: The “N” Word & Paula Deen”

  1. June 27th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Phil says:

    “Are there celebrity smoking and drinking advocates? Are there celebrity drive too fast advocates? Are there celebrity unsafe sex advocates? Do these folks, if they exist, get their own TV shows?” Don’t we usually point fingers at celebrities for being bad role models? They can’t smoke in movies without some big kurfluffle. I remember how it was such a big deal that they smoked on Mad Men. The horror that kids could watch that and think it was okay (that is sarcasm by the way). And I can’t even count the number of songs that promote drinking.

    I would like to see a map that looked at general social economic status and compare with the second map.

    Finally, just to play a little thinking game, what if Paula Deen was black and she called a bunch of white people crackers, honkies, or peckerwoods? Just an interesting thought.

  2. June 27th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Michael Joyner, M.D. says:

    Great points. As I mentioned in the post a lot of the second map does have to do with the things you note. On many issues there are more than enough double standards to go around. However, I will point out the Gordon Gee more or less got fired as President of Ohio State for his regional and religious dissing of the SEC and Notre Dame.

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