Although eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses, people don’t typically associate them with type 1 diabetes. But that’s not the case: insulin restriction can be deadly.
To find out more about this, we spoke with Ann Goebel-Fabbri, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who worked at Joslin Diabetes Center and was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for over 15 years. (She is currently in private practice in which she treats patients with eating disorders and type 1 diabetes and consults to medical teams and loved ones about how to optimally help them.)
“Girls and women with type 1 diabetes are close to 2.5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those without the condition,” says Dr. Goebel-Fabbri, who is the author of Prevention and Recovery from Eating Disorders in Type 1 Diabetes: Injecting Hope.
Women with both type 1 diabetes and an eating disorder often practice insulin restriction as a means of calorie purging, she explains. By skipping or reducing insulin doses, they’re able to quickly lose weight. Blood glucose levels creep higher and higher and some of that glucose is then excreted in the sugar-filled urine. As a result, the body doesn’t absorb carbohydrates and sugars and drastic weight loss occurs.