Unhealthy Weight Loss Methods Tempt Teens With Diabetes

About half of young people who have diabetes report having tried to lose weight at one time or another, says a Kaiser Permanente Southern California study reported in the December 2008 issue of Diabetes Care

The study involved 3,357 young people with diabetes (1,742 girls and 1,615 boys), whose average age was 15. There were 520 type 2s and 2,837 type 1s. 

While most of those trying to lose weight reported adhering to healthy weight-reduction practices, such as regular exercise and healthy diets, “a fair number” reported resorting to such unhealthy practices as skipping insulin doses, fasting, vomiting, using laxatives, or using diet aids.Thankfully, among youth who had ever tried to lose weight, healthy weight-loss practices (diet and exercise) were the most common. But unhealthy practices were used in the following percentages:

  • fasting [8.6%]
  • using diet aids [7.5%]
  • vomiting or laxative use [2.3%]
  • skipping insulin doses [4.2%] 

All unhealthy weight-loss practices except fasting were more common in female than in male subjects. 

In the type 2 diabetics, for whom obesity is a common factor in their disease, scientists found the pattern of concern about weight and weight loss that they had expected. Because type 1s generally do not have weight problems, however, the researchers were surprised to find more type 1 youths than they had expected, especially girls, engaging in unhealthy dieting behaviors.

Skipping insulin doses as a weight-control measure among type 1 teen girls (and some boys) has become a major concern among doctors and parents in the past few years. Because lack of insulin thwarts the body’s ability to metabolize glucose, the resulting lack of nourishment can lead to rapid weight loss-a classic symptom of diabetes. 

Type 1 girls seeking to lose weight this way run the risk of sending their blood sugar levels skyrocketing, often as high as 800, 900, or even more than 1,000 mg/dl.

Source: Diabetes Care

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