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Vivian Zink/NBCU/Getty Yvette Nicole Brown on Community
The 49-year-old actress explained on Sean Hayes and Dr. Priyanka Wali's podcast Hypochondriactor that she was "excessively eating sugar" during the lengthy, 16-hour days of filming on the NBC comedy.
"I got diabetes, or gave myself diabetes, by eating a lot of donuts on the set of Community," Brown said. "I spent a lot of time at the craft services table, and I watched myself get bigger and bigger. And if you watch the show, you can see me get bigger and bigger. And I got a pre-diabetes diagnosis maybe in season one, and then by season three it was full-blown diabetes."
Wali then reassured Brown that as a physician, she doesn't believe "it's people's faults that they contract diabetes."
"We live in a society right now where one of the most addictive substances in the world is completely legal and socially accepted. I do believe sugar is the tobacco of our generation," Wali said. "And so it's not your fault that there were doughnuts lying around."
"So when people say, type 2 diabetes is the one you give to yourself, I completely disagree," she continued. "I think we're living in a very toxic food society and it's not our faults that we're contracting diabetes."
Brown thanked her for that clarification, and agreed that sugar is an "addiction."
"I swear I would walk past the donuts and go, 'You don't have to eat five,' and my body would go, 'Yes, you do.' So I can imagine that it calls you the way drugs call the people that are addicted … I know that when I was on Community, I was excessively eating sugar."
"I remember my skin got really dry," she said of her symptoms. "Everything was just itchy. I was scratchy and itchy, and I couldn't put enough lotion on, but I never lost weight, I gained weight, and was thirsty."
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Brown said that since her diagnosis, she's cut back significantly on sugar.
"Thankfully I'm not in a situation now where I have that much time on set, and I'm not walking by delicious donuts and cakes and whatever all day," she said. "I believe everything in moderation. So I'm not someone that's like, 'I'm never going to have a piece of cake,' but I don't have a whole cake. And I don't have a whole cake every day, or every week. And if I say, I want to go to Cheesecake Factory and I'm going to get this cheesecake, then I'll make sure that I use the treadmill for an extra hour that day to try to burn off some of the sugar that's now in my body, drink more water, and other simple things you can do."
JC Olivera/Getty Yvette Nicole Brown in 2020
Brown and Wali also touched on the higher rates of diabetes in the Black community.
"The rates of diabetes in the African-American community are higher, and there are more complications," Wali said. "I personally given the populations I've treated, I think being a black person in the United States dealing with just everyday life, plus the effects of racism, I think that actually impacts health outcomes."
Brown agreed, adding that "stress produces cortisol, [and] cortisol makes your stomach get chubbier, so it's all connected. If you're already stressed out because you're a Black person in America, you probably already have a cortisol belly, and that can lead to diabetes, and I don't know how many other ailments."