Diabetes : Type 1 Diabetic Teens at Risk for Rare Eating Disorder

Teenagers with type 1 diabetes can develop "diabulimia," a dangerous and little-known eating disorder in which they cut insulin use to lose weight. Parents should inform a doctor if they have a diabetic adolescent who inexplicably gains or loses weight and prefers to skip meals with family members. This is the advice of Harald Tegtmeyer-Metzdorf, a member of Germany's Professional Association of Children's and Young People's Physicians. Other worrying signs are not taking insulin in the presence of others and preoccupation with one's body, weight and eating. Over time, this behaviour can lead to premature complications of diabetes such as blindness and shortened life expectancy.

"Young diabetes patients have to concern themselves more than their peers with nutrition, weight and physical activity, and to strictly observe their therapy plan," noted Tegtmeyer-Metzdorf. "Many young people lose weight before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes -- partly due to fluid loss -- and then gain weight at first when their therapy begins."

This can lead to "weight phobia," he said. "Cutting back on insulin, also known as insulin purging, often seems to them to be a more successful way to shed pounds." Doctors became aware of the eating disorder after noticing an increasing number of diabetic adolescents, especially females, who complained of stomach and nerve problems or frequent episodes of ketoacidosis, a metabolic disorder characterized by excess acid in body fluids. These complications normally occur in diabetics after decades with the disease.

Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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