Strict Diets for Chronic Diseases May Increase Risk of an Eating Disorder

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2000 Volume 11, Number 3
©2000 Gürze Books

Clinicians who work with adolescents and young adult women with diabetes or phenylketonuria (PKU) should be alert for signs of disordered eating that might interfere with their patients’ health. The strict diets required for diseases such as these may increase the risk of unhealthy eating behaviors, according to Joan C. Chrisler, PhD, and Jeanne E. Antisdel, of Connecticut College, New London, CT (J Dev Behav Pediatr, April 2000).

Disordered eating reported in more than 20%

When the two researchers evaluated 54 women with diabetes and 30 with PKU, 33% of the diabetics and 23% of those with PKU had eating-disordered behavior. Certain types of eating problems were more common with each group. For example, the diabetic patients were more preoccupied with avoiding fatty foods and with weight loss whereas those with PKU were more likely to be preoccupied with self-control around food. Those with PKU were also more likely than the diabetic patients to perceive that others were pressuring them to gain weight. Those with eating problems showed poorer judgment as well as lower self-esteem. Diabetics with disordered eating also had lower self-esteem and a more negative body image than diabetics without such problems. They were also more careless about monitoring their blood glucose levels or following a meal plan and properly treating hypoglycemia.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes and PKU, a hereditary condition in which an amino acid in proteins cannot be properly metabolized, must adhere to strict diets. Deviating from the diet regimens leads to serious health risks. Persons with diabetes are at increased risk for vascular complications, such as heart disease, and those with PKU can develop brain damage.

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