Eating Disorders

Research suggests that eating disorders are probably more common among women with diabetes than women who do not have diabetes.

Bulimia is the most common eating disorder in women with type 1 diabetes. Among women with type 2 diabetes, binge eating is more common.

Because both diabetes and eating disorders involve attention to body states, weight management, and control of food, some people develop a pattern in which they use the disease to justify or camouflage the disorder. Because the complications of diabetes and eating disorders can be serious or even fatal, responsible, healthy behavior is essential.

Eating disorders are illnesses with a biological basis modified and influenced by emotional and cultural factors. The stigma associated with eating disorders has long kept individuals suffering in silence, inhibited funding for crucial research, and created barriers to treatment. Because of insufficient information, the public and professionals fail to recognize the dangerous consequences of eating disorders. While eating disorders are serious, potentially life threatening illnesses, there is help available and recovery is possible.

Types of Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) is an eating disorder centered around an obsessive fear of weight gain. Anorexia involves self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Although anorexia is a psychological disorder, the physical consequences are serious and sometimes life-threatening.
  • Bulimia is characterized by recurrent binge eating (the rapid controlled consumption of large amounts of food). Purging may occur with self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, insulin omission or reduction, fasting, severe diets, or vigorous exercise.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (also known as Compulsive Overeating) is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge.
  • Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is a range of other disordered eating patterns that doesn't fit the other specific types. These conditions are still serious, and intervention and attention are necessary. EDNOS, or other types of eating disorders, may include:
    • Eating problems or disordered eating with some, but not all, of the characteristics of an eating disorder; for example, people who severely restrict food intake, but who do not meet the full criteria for anorexia nervosa.
    • Chewing food and spitting it out (without swallowing).
    • Bingeing and purging irregularly, such as at times of increased stress.

Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

Women with eating disorders have higher rates of miscarriage than do healthy, normal women. Also, your baby might be born prematurely, meaning that it would not weigh as much or be as well-developed as babies who are born full term.

Women with anorexia nervosa are underweight and may not gain enough weight during pregnancy. They risk having a baby with abnormally low birth weight and related health problems.

Women with bulimia nervosa who continue to purge may suffer dehydration, chemical imbalances, or even cardiac irregularities. Pregnancy heightens these health risks.

Women who are overweight due to binge eating are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and overgrown babies. Low birth weight babies are at risk of many medical problems, some of them life threatening.

Your teeth and bones might become weak and fragile because the baby's need for calcium takes priority over yours. If you don't replenish calcium with dairy products and other sources, you could find yourself with stress fractures and broken bones in later years. Once calcium is gone from your bones, it is difficult, if not impossible, to replace it.

  • Last Reviewed: August 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: March 28, 2014

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