Eating Disorders and Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, eating disorders are illnesses with a biological basis that are modified and influenced by emotional and cultural factors.1 These illnesses can be life threating. However, there are resources at the end of this article that may be helpful.  

 

Eating disorders are more commonly seen in women but men can also be affected. Within those with diabetes, women are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than men. 1 

 

In those with type 1 diabetes, bulimia is the most common eating disorder.1 Bulimia is recurrent binge eating with purging, typically from self-induced vomiting. 1 There is also diabulimia seen in type 1 diabetes, where individuals withhold insulin. This results in weight loss but high blood glucose values that can be damaging.1 This is seen in at least 1/3 of all women with diabetes, and at higher frequency between the ages of 15 and 30.1 

 

In those with type 2 diabetes, the most common eating disorder is Binge Eating Disorder. This is periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling full.1 These behaviors can lead to weight loss and repeated episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis. 

 

There are various symptoms of an eating disorder both physical and mental, some of which are listed below.1,2 This is not a comprehensive list but is a good starting point if you are worried about a loved one or yourself. 

 

  • Weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns  

  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, or nutrition fact labels 

  • Refusal to eat certain foods or categories of foods  

  • Uncomfortable eating around others  

  • Skipping meals or small portions of meals  

  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities  

  • Frequent dieting  

  • Extreme concern with body size and shape  

  • Extreme mood swings  

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down  

  • Fainting/syncope (temporary loss of consciousness due to insufficient blood flow to the brain).   

  • Abnormal laboratory findings, specifically hemoglobin A1c levels 

  • Repeated episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis 

  • Dizziness 

 

If you are looking for treatment for your eating disorder with individuals, the National Eating Disorder Association has a great list of places by region that can be accessed by clicking here. 2 

 

1: Types of eating disorders. Types of Eating Disorders | ADA. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/mental-health/eating-disorders  

 2: Warning signs and symptoms. National Eating Disorders Association. (2021, July 14). Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms