Young diabetic women skipping insulin to lose weight

A new type of "eating disorder" has emerged among young--mostly female--diabetics.

It's called skipping your insulin doses in order to lose weight.

A UK charity called Diabetes UK is expressing concern over the number of young women who are participating in this trend. According to the organization, about one in three women under 30 may be suffering from what is called "diabulimia"--abusing insulin to manage fluctuations in weight.

The insulin-weight gain link

Gaining weight is a common side effect for diabetics taking insulin, as insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. There are many theories as to why insulin may be a factor in diabetic weight gain, but one simple idea is that a diabetic might eat more to compensate for lower blood sugar levels caused by insulin. The more insulin you take, the greater your chance of weight gain.

Jacqueline Allen is founder of Diabetes UK and a diabetic herself. She started the organization to help fellow sufferers and believes that abusing insulin is no different than having a serious eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia:

"I started the charity because one of the things we do is advocate for people with type 1 diabetes and eating disorders," she told BBC Radio Wales.

Managing the disease, getting educated

When diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Dai Williams, national director for Diabetes UK Cymru, says that not enough young women in Wales are getting proper information about how to manage diabetes, and that "understanding the consequences of mismanaging it" is one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetics can avoid insulin-related weight gain by vigilantly counting calories, not skipping meals and staying physically active at least 150 minutes per week.

Sources: BBC News, Mayo Clinic

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