Exploring the Link Between Disturbed Eating and Type 1 Diabetes

disturbed eating


Managing type 1 diabetes requires careful monitoring of food intake, activity, blood sugar, and insulin administration. Depending on what a person eats and when, it impacts their blood glucose levels. A recent study found that around one-third of individuals between the ages of 16 and 28 experience issues with disturbed eating behavior (DEB). Furthermore, many report restricting or omitting insulin.

The study evaluated the responses of 300 participants to the Diabetes Eating Problem Survey-Revised (DEPS-R) as well as to questions regarding diabetes distress, depressive symptoms, and self-management of the disease. They were divided into four groups based on their DEPS-R scores for baseline and then one year later. The groups were low DEB (65.7%), increasing DEB (8%), decreasing DEB (7.3%), and persistent DEB (19%).

While mean DEPS-R scores were stable from baseline to one year later, the scores were higher in females than in males – 16.53 and 15.57 in females versus 8.71 and 8.96 in males. All groups reported varying levels of insulin restriction and omission, but it did not differ significantly between males and females.

Individuals who fell into the persistent DEB group showed the highest levels of diabetes distress and depressive symptoms while those in the low DEB group showed the lowest levels.  The low DEB group also had the lowest HbA1c levels, while the persistent DEB group had the second highest. The study also found that “self-management decreased when DEB increased, and vice versa.” This could in turn lead to poorer glycemic control and increased health care costs.

The researchers found overall that DEB can occur at any age and any stage of the disease, but that evaluating adolescents and young adults for DEB and eating disorders may be beneficial in supporting better diabetes management and glycemic control.

The Diabetes Research Connection, though not involved with this study, supports early career scientists in conducting research aimed improving prevention and finding a cure for type 1 diabetes as well as minimizing complications and improving quality of life for individuals living with the disease. Through donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, scientists can secure the critical funding they need to move forward with their research.

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