It is possible for anorexia to indirectly cause hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. It is not a disease or a disorder like anorexia nervosa, but it’s a symptom of a bigger problem in the body. The presence of hypoglycemia is a warning sign that blood sugar levels are dangerously low.
Not eating enough food, one of the most common signs of anorexia, can cause blood sugar levels to plummet. Over time, chronic malnutrition damages internal organs like the liver and pancreas, which affects blood sugar levels. Starvation depletes the body of the nutrients it needs to create glucose and glycogen. Without glucose and glycogen, healthy blood sugar levels cannot be maintained and hypoglycemia can develop.
Most frequently, hypoglycemia occurs as a side effect of diabetes medications. People who have complicated medical conditions, like eating disorders, may also develop hypoglycemia.
For Anorexia Patients, Hypoglycemia Can Cause Sudden Death
Anorexia and hypoglycemia do not always occur together. However, among people who have anorexia, hypoglycemia can be deadly. The depletion of glucose in vital organs like the brain and heart can be detrimental. In people who have anorexia, if these organs are deprived of glucose for long enough, heart failure and brain damage can occur. According to a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, severe hypoglycemia can cause sudden death. For anorexia patients, sudden death can happen when safe glucose levels are unsustainable and the liver fails.
Eating disorders like anorexia and conditions like hypoglycemia are treatable with the right care. Hypoglycemia may only require short-term medical support. Immediate remedies for hypoglycemia typically involve the ingestion of foods and drinks that are high in sugar. Anorexia treatment usually involves long-term medical care and psychological counseling.
Gaudiani, Jennifer L. MD, CEDS. “Hypoglycemia May Be The Cause of Death in Anorexia Nervosa.” November 23, 2015. Accessed February 20, 2019.
Mehler, P. S., & Brown, C. “Anorexia nervosa – medical complications.” Journal of Eating Disorders, March 31, 2015. Accessed February 20, 2019.
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