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Eating disorders and unhealthy weight-control practices are not uncommon in young women with type 1 diabetes. The combination can result in serious complications, according to a study reported in Diabetes Care (January 2005). For the study, the researchers interviewed girls and young women, aged 11 to 25 years, who were patients at a United Kingdom diabetes clinic in the late 1980s. The participants were questioned about their eating habits, attitudes toward food, and eating disorder symptoms at the beginning of the study, then again when they were between the ages of 20 and 38.
The researchers found that, among 87 teenage girls and young women with the disease, 15% had a probable eating disorder (eg, anorexia or bulimia) at some point during the study. The data also showed that more than one third of the participants said they cut back on their insulin in an attempt to keep their weight in check, while others reported they had vomited or abused laxatives for weight control.
In the current study, the women with a history of eating disorders were 5 times more likely to experience 2 or more diabetes complications (eg, damage to the eye's blood vessels and kidney dysfunction) over 8 to 12 years of follow-up, compared with their peers. The researchers suggested that the fact that insulin injections can cause weight gain and the stress of managing a chronic disease may play a role in eating disorders.