Body image and eating problems linked to teenagers with type 1 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Body image and eating problems linked to teenagers with type 1 diabetes
A large proportion of teenagers with type 1 diabetes, especially girls, contend with disordered eating behaviours (DEB) and are not happy with their bodies, according to Australian researchers.

Deakin University researchers report that that 88 per cent of Australian girls with type 1 diabetes desired to be slimmer and 76 per cent of boys were not happy with their bodies. However, only 43 per cent of the boys specifically wanted to lose weight.

There was also an association among both boys and girls between the frequency of binge eating and HbA1c, insulin omission and BMI.

The findings were based on examining the results of the Diabetes Eating Problem Survey-Revised, a survey completed online across Australia called DEPS-R.

The term disordered eating is used to describe a set of abnormal eating behaviours where eating is disturbed, leading to unhealthy patterns such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating and skipping meals. The difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the level of severity and frequency of behaviours.

The surveys were completed by 477 young people aged between 13 and 19 years who had all had type 1 diabetes for more than 12 months. Data was also pulled from the Body Mass Index Silhouette Matching Test (BMI-SMT), which was completed by 431 young people.

The researchers concluded: "A large proportion of adolescents with type 1 diabetes, particularly females reported engaging in DEB. Similarly, high rates of body dissatisfaction were reported, though ideal body shape preferences differed by gender.

"Given the high levels of self-reported DEB and gender-based patterns of body dissatisfaction, future research needs to examine the effectiveness of routine screening of DEB and consider implementation of stepped care approaches."

The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Eating disorders can be dangerous for people with diabetes as behaviours can impact upon blood sugar levels and may increase the risk of diabetes complications from occurring.

If you, or someone who you know, is struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating, GPs can help. The Diabetes Forum is a great place for support if you wish to discuss some of the struggles of living with eating disorders.
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