Call To Consider ‘Diabulimia’ As A Mental Illness

Insulin pump (mbbradford/Wikimedia Commons)

Insulin pump (mbbradford/Wikimedia Commons)

Diabulimia? At first I thought it might refer to purging with laxatives. But no, it refers to young women with diabetes who cut back on the insulin they need in order to lose weight. “Diabetes Health” offers some excellent background here, including the explanation that “when insulin is omitted, calories are purged through the loss of glucose in the urine.”

The BBC reports today that a British charity called Diabetics with Eating Disorders is now pushing to have diabulimia recognized officially as a mental illness. The report warns that side effects of not taking enough insulin can range from “eye sight loss to kidney damage and if left untreated can even kill.”

Leading doctors and psychiatrists say diabulimia is most common with young women who have type 1 diabetes…

Figures show, in the 12 months up to last March, more than 8,000 people were admitted to hospital in England and Wales, with symptoms of not taking enough insulin.

The data shows it was most common with young females in deprived areas.

Read the full report here.

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  • Reasonable?

    This is complicated because I think these patients are making a false dichotomy.
    1. Take insulin and get fat
    2. Avoid insulin and stay thin.

    But the insulin load dependent on carbohydrates consumed (and to a much lesser extent

    protein). If these patients are encouraged to eat a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet, they could maintain a lower insulin load and a healthy but thin body shape.

    However, it’s still standard practice to discourage high fat diets or diabetics and people with other metabolic conditions in general.