Diabulimia and Type 1 Diabetes: An Unknown and Emerging Problem

Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2024 Apr 30. doi: 10.2174/0118715303314948240419060714. Online ahead of print.


Background: T1DM patients have a higher prevalence of eating disorders than the general population, and up to 30-40% of young T1DM patients suffer from an eating disorder, including diabulimia. Eating disorders worsen glycemic control and make insulin therapy management more difficult. Closed loop systems (HCLS) allow major therapeutic flexibility; however, proper carbohydrate (CHO) counting remains a fundamental feature for insulin dose adjustments.

Case report: A 30-year-old female patient affected by T1DM (with a past medical history of drug abuse and depressive syndrome) presented with inadequate glycemic control and prandial boli management. She started a CHO counting course and had a HCLS positioned, with progressive amelioration of glycemic control. During follow-up evaluations, HCLS data showed a progressive reduction and abeyance of prandial boli; the patient also developped an excessive fear of weight gain. An integrated approach between diabetologist, psychiatrist and dietitian allowed a diagnosis of diabulimia, an eating disorder characterized by a progressive reduction and elimination of carbohydrate ingestion and insulin boli, with episodes of uncontrolled binging and purging. A multidisciplinary approach (fortnightly dietetic and psychiatric evaluations, use of bioimpedance, fixed CHO content diet) allowed the patient to reach a better glycometabolic control and disease consciousness.

Conclusion: T1DM patients need to pay great attention to food quality and quantity; hence, an eating disorder diagnosis may be challenging. Additionally, there are currently no standard screening methods for this purpose. In our experience, an integrated approach is fundamental and may be a valid strategy to face this emerging problem.

Keywords: Type 1 diabetes mellitus; closed loop system.; diabulimia; eating disorder.