The Link Between Diabetes and Eating Disorders

Researchers at the medical College of Georgia recently examined the link between diabetes, treatment for the condition, and eating disorders.

Investigating the link between diabetes and eating disorders, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia recently found that “attempts to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent weight gain may suggest an eating disorder when the disease and its treatment are to blame."

A meta analysis of research conducted between 1980 and the present found that most of the previous research focused on “young women with type 1 diabetes, usually between ages 15—35 years, when weight concerns, disordered eating behavior (DEB), and eating disorders are at a high prevalence.” The search, which was published in Diabetes Care, also revealed that a diabetes diagnosis correlates to increased rates of DEB and eating disorders, “particularly when insulin omission is considered purging. “

According to Dr. Deborah Young-Hyman, pediatric psychologist at the Medical College of Georgia's Georgia Prevention Institute and lead author of the study, different criteria for diagnosing eating disorders in diabetic patients is needed, “because what we actually prescribe as part of diabetes treatment is part of disordered eating behavior.” Young-Hyman cited food preoccupation as one of these differences.

“Preoccupation with food, in fact, is required for optimal disease management,” she said. “Questions like, ‘What are you putting in your mouth? Did you know that was going to raise your blood sugar?’ are a part of life. Young women, and increasingly young men, also are not immune from societal pressures to be thin.”

Although debate continues about whether or not diabetics have an increased rate of eating disorders, Young-Hyman concludes that the connection between the two conditions should be more carefully monitored.

"We need to document that these patients are experiencing dysregulation in satiety and that it's not only connected with factors one usually associates with disordered eating behaviors such as societal pressure, anxiety and depression," she said. "It's also associated with having diabetes."