Looking good has long been a national obsession in the United States, prompting many people to do whatever it takes to stay thin. The result? Eating disorders. But what happens when a person with diabetes also has an eating disorder? The results can be deadly, as a February 2008 study of women with Type 1 diabetes proves.1

Following a good diabetes management routine can be a challenge for people with eating disorders. This is especially true of women, who may feel added pressure to stay thin. In caring for their diabetes, women may consume more food or eat more frequently than they feel comfortable with. Moreover, insulin leads to weight gain, causing many women to skip doses in order to shed pounds.

Until now, few studies have demonstrated a direct link between insulin restriction and mortality. This latest study, which comes to us from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, does just that. Initially, researchers polled 234 women with Type 1 diabetes. Of these women, 30% reported that they did not take as much insulin as they needed. They also reported more symptoms of eating disorders than the other 70% of the women. Eleven years later, researchers followed up with the women polled and found startling results. Those women who had restricted their insulin use more than tripled their risk of death. Not only that, these women died younger: at an average age of 44, compared to age 58 amongst women who followed their insulin routine properly. Women who restricted their insulin use also had more than double the rate of kidney and foot problems.2

This dangerous pattern of restricting insulin to lose weight, dubbed “diabulimia” by some, doesn’t just exist among women who already had eating disorders when they were diagnosed with diabetes, either. Other studies have shown that women who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are 2½ times more likely to develop an eating disorder, as well, compared with their peers who do not have diabetes.3

So what’s the upshot of this research? While insulin may cause weight gain, the extra weight is less harmful to health than skipping insulin doses. Restricting insulin to lose weight can be deadly, plain and simple.


[1] Joslin Diabetes Center (2008, February 28). Restricting Insulin Doses Increases Mortality Risk In Women With Type 1 Diabetes, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080227082849.htm
[2] http://www.healthandage.com/public/article/3314/Insulin-restriction-may-be-fatal.html
[3] http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-02-26-women-diabetes_N.htm

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