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Chronic Illness Joke Removed From 'The Great British Bake Off' After Backlash

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Future viewers of “The Great British Bake Off” won’t hear a joke judge Paul Hollywood made about diabetes after members of the diabetes community spoke out and the network decided to cut the joke from the show.

On Tuesday’s episode, which aired on Channel 4 in the U.K., Hollywood and fellow judge Prue Leith were discussing the technical baking challenge they had given contestants: make a Gâteau St-Honoré, a type of French pastry dessert comprised of layers of pastry, cream puffs, cream and caramelized sugar.

“The combination is fantastic,” Leith said. “Diabetes on a plate,” Hollywood quipped in response.

Hollywood’s comment drew criticism on social media from some viewers, who pointed out on social media that comparing sugary sweets to diabetes is a common stereotype and can come across as shaming. Diabetes advocates maintain that comments like “diabetes on a plate” contribute to the misconception that type 1 diabetes is caused by diet (it’s not) and that type 2 diabetes is caused solely by eating sugary snacks, rather than a variety of factors.

“I’m sorry did I just hear @PaulHollywood utter the words ‘diabetes on a plate’? Utterly astounded,” tweeted Rosie. “Please educate yourself in the future.”

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone required to allow your body to use the sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food you eat. It’s not known exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists believe factors like genetics or viruses may contribute. It is not caused by food. Type 2 diabetes develops when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin, or your body becomes resistant to the insulin you are producing. Factors that can contribute to developing type 2 diabetes are genetics, lifestyle habits such as a high fat and carbohydrate diet and lack of exercise, and age.

The nonprofit Diabetes UK shared a tweet revealing they reached out to the show’s producers and Channel 4 to explain why Hollywood’s comment could be damaging.

“Some of you may have seen or heard about the reference to #diabetes made on this week’s episode of #GBBO,” the organization tweeted. “We’ve been in touch with the producers and @Channel4 to explain how remarks like this can lead to misunderstanding, and be upsetting for people affected by diabetes.”

Hollywood later followed up with an Instagram post, apologizing for the comment.

“A remark re:- diabetes I made on tonight’s show was thoughtless and I meant no harm, as both my grandad and my own mother suffer/suffered from diabetes… apologies,” he wrote.

Diabetes UK then revealed via Twitter that “Bake Off’s” production company, Love Productions, confirmed that future airings of the episode would have the diabetes joke edited out. Viewers who watch the show on Netflix will not hear the comment.

While not everyone with diabetes is offended by comments like Hollywood’s, people in the diabetes community have spoken up about “diabetes on a plate” remarks before. Mighty contributor E. Ben Gabriel responded by explaining the anxiety that diabetes can cause and the demand it places on your lifestyle and bank account is anything but funny. Gabriel wrote:

I’m sure if you yourself were struggling to keep your blood sugar levels in range all day every day, if you were literally taking on the job of an organ that is supposed to work seamlessly and without any conscious effort, on top of doing all the regular things that life demands of you; if you literally never had so much as a minute’s break from doing that, if you could never go on a vacation and forget that diabetes is with you, demanding your attention, demanding your constant engagement, demanding your vigilant action — threatening you with blindness, organ failure, neuropathy, amputation, taunting you with the number of years it could take off your life — I’m sure if this was your experience with diabetes, diabetes would cease to be funny.

For suggestions about what to say if you have diabetes and someone says “Are you sure you’re allowed to eat that?” check out our Mighty community’s recommended “comebacks.”

Header image via Paul Hollywood’s facebook page

Originally published: October 24, 2019
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