Up to half of female teenagers with type 1 diabetes exhibit disordered eating

Thu, 29 Aug 2013
A study carried out in Norway showed that 1 in 5 11-19 year olds with type 1 diabetes experienced disordered eating and that amongst 17-19 year old females, 1 in 2 showed disturbed eating patterns.

The results also showed that those that had disordered eating behaviour (DEB) had worse diabetes control.

The study evaluated 770 youngsters in Norway of both genders (51% female, 49% male. The youngsters each filled in a 16 point survey known as the Diabetes Eating Problem Survey-Revised (DEPS-R).

The results of the study showed that 18.3% of the patients exhibited disordered eating. Females were 3 times as likely as males to report these signs (28% female and 9% of males). Within the 17-19 year olds, the likelihood almost doubled across both genders with 15% of males and 49% of females showing disordered behaviour towards eating.

HBA1c measurements were also analysed. Teenagers that displayed disordered eating had an average HbA1c of 9.2% compared with the rest of the group, which had an average HBA1c of 8.4%.

Alarmingly, 1 in 4 females reported that they would skip an insulin injection if they had overeaten. Regularly skipping insulin doses in a bid to lose weight, known as diabulimia, is relatively common amongst teenagers and can significantly raise the risk of suffering complications earlier in life.

Type 1 diabetes interacts with and affects eating in a number of ways. The effect of high and low sugar levels through the day, can both induce hunger and there’s also an emotional effect to take into account. People with type 1 diabetes have to medicate for each meal, including making tricky dosing decisions and this can increase the chance of negative feelings towards eating or taking insulin, which could escalate into disordered eating or missed insulin doses. When you add in the further factor of body weight issues, this can exaggerate matters further.

Figures from the study show that poorer blood glucose control and disordered eating patterns are associated with one another and suggests that teenagers with type 1 diabetes, and particularly females, may require holistic help in managing blood glucose levels including input from a diabetic consultant, dietitian and psychologist working together.
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