Do eating disorders like anorexia lead to the development of diabetes? Learn more about anorexia and diabetes, here.
Anorexia nervosa is not directly linked to diabetes, but this eating disorder may increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Someone who has anorexia may eat sugar sporadically. They may label specific foods as good or bad, and they might eat unhealthy snacks or meals with high or low amounts of sugar on an irregular basis. Additionally, a person who has anorexia may replace certain foods with sweet ones, or forgo sugar altogether. In either case, their blood sugar levels can fluctuate dramatically.
Over time, an unbalanced diet and inconsistent blood sugar levels can contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes. In some cases, anorexic eating habits may impair the functioning of the pancreas, which produces insulin. A healthy pancreas is essential to regulate blood sugar levels. While it may be rare, a person who has anorexia may experience hypoglycemia, which is common among people with diabetes.
Although anorexia may be a risk factor for diabetes, the inverse is common, too. According to the American Diabetes Association, women who have diabetes are more likely to experience an eating disorder like anorexia than women who don’t have diabetes. Additionally, people who have type 1 diabetes are twice as likely to struggle with disordered eating as people who do not have diabetes.
Anorexia and diabetes can both involve erratic eating, weight fluctuation and an unhealthy relationship with food. However, having anorexia does not mean someone will develop diabetes or vice versa. Both conditions are treatable, and it is possible to recover from an eating disorder and a co-occurring issue like diabetes. Anorexia is treatable with the right medical and psychological care, and diabetes is manageable with a doctor’s guidance. Professional counseling with a licensed mental health practitioner can help someone heal from an eating disorder like anorexia and a medical condition like diabetes.
Campbell, Amy, MS, RD, LDN, CDE. “Eating Disorders and Diabetes: What’s the Connection?” Diabetes Self-Management, February 24, 2014. Access February 19, 2019.
American Diabetes Association. “Eating Disorders.” December 7, 2018. Access February 19, 2019.
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