Eating Disorders in Children With Diabetes

An additional and somewhat unique concern in children and adolescents with diabetes is the occurrence of disordered eating. Such disordered eating is believed to be the result of both the focus that the treatment of diabetes places on dietary intake and the fact that treatment modalities often result in weight gain. However, some controversy exists regarding the prevalence of disordered eating in individuals with type 1 diabetes. Some studies have found no significant increase in diagnoses of eating disorders, yet other studies have found a higher incidence of eating disorders and eating disorder-type behaviors in individuals who have type 1 diabetes. In addition, as in the general population, younger adolescent females with type 1 diabetes appear to be the most susceptible to the development of an eating disorder (Jones et al. 2000; Meltzer et al. 2001; Verrotti et al. 1999).

The treatment for diabetes itself has also been used by some adolescents to manipulate their weight. Specifically, some adolescents limit or omit their insulin intake, resulting in calorie loss. As with eating disorders in general, this specific behavior appears to be particularly problematic for young females. Finally, the American Diabetes Association has identified some potential warning signs of eating disorders that can be helpful in identifying individuals who may be struggling with disordered eating. These warning signs include delayed onset of puberty (e.g., menarche) and unexplainable fluctuations in blood sugar (American Diabetes Association 2002; Crow et al. 1998; Hudson et al. 1983; Jones et al. 2000).

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