'Diabulimia' a growing concern with deadly outcomes

A diabetes diagnosis often sparks a newfound resolve to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits.

But for some, it brings with it complications that are now dubbed as a condition called "diabulimia" — where diabetics engage in eating disorder-like behavior in order to lose weight quickly. Some accomplish this by reducing or ceasing their insulin use completely, while others resort to bulimic behaviors of bingeing and purging.

"Eating disorders are twice as common among girls and women with diabetes who use insulin compared with females without diabetes," Beverly Price, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, said in a press release from the Inner Door Center, an eating disorder treatment clinic in Michigan.

The body image problem

Price says that the practice of withholding insulin is seen in girls as young as 13 or women as old as 60. Overall, diabulimia is estimated to affect about 1.4 million Americans.

Girls with type 1 diabetes may also have a poor self-image, notes Price. And the constant monitoring of blood sugar levels can lead to an almost obsessive relationship with food and eating, which can trigger a condition like anorexia or bulimia. And with the added weight gain that often accompanies insulin use, girls often feel powerless over their bodies and their diseases.

Health risks

Studies have shown that people with diabulimia tend to have poorer diabetes outcomes, being in high-risk territory for things like heart disease, stroke, organ damage or diabetic-related blindness. They also have a mortality rate three times higher than people who don't restrict insulin use, living, on average, 13 fewer years.

"Treating an individual with diabetes and an eating disorder requires a very careful approach in order to achieve a positive outcome," the statement from Inner Door said.

Source: International Business Times

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