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Weight obsession taken to a new level

August 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
We know how dangerous eating disorders can be, but some young women and teens are taking this weight loss obsession to a whole new level. Two million people have Type 1 diabetes, but a growing number of these patients are suffering from a secondary condition doctors call dia-bulimia.Daily insulin is a life preserver for Kelie Gardner, but on some days she decided to toss it away.

"It was hard for me to tell anybody because in the beginning it's, I don't want anyone to know about this, it's my way of losing weight. I don't want to tell anyone because if anyone found out about it, it would be taken away from me," said diabulemic, Kelie Gardner.

Welcome to Kelie's secret world of diabulimia -- where Type 1 diabetes sufferers intentionally skip insulin to get thin. Without insulin to metabolize food, the body breaks down fat and muscle.

"So they are getting very, very sick, in a sense slow starvation, but they are losing weight rapidly, but it's very dangerous," said diabetes specialist Dr. Peter Baginsky.

Few doctors know how to treat this, but Dr. Baginsky knows all about diabulimia. He says it's being talked about at medical conferences around the world.

"I have been on the alert for this and so I look for signs. I look for the young woman mentioning she is concerned about her weight, her body image, her self-esteem," said Dr. Baginsky.

Kelie came forward to bring more attention to this condition. She says she stopped this drastic diet, just in time.

"I see little effects here and there, but I've met other girls with diabulimia see other girls that are blind, have organ failure, are at risk of losing their life, because of the desire to be thin. And it all stems from not taking our insulin. I would say it's not worth it, love yourself, there are people that love you, and fight," said Gardner.

Experts say if you know someone who is a Type 1 diabetic, look out for signs of diabulimia which include weight loss, excessive thirst, frequent urination and disregard for insulin treatment.

Web Extra Information:

DANGEROUS DIET: DIABULIMIA

"We already know that eating disorders without diabetes raise the risk of death; in the context of another chronic medical illness, it's another shocker or jolt." Ann E. Goebel-Fabbri, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School

DANGERS OF DIABULIMIA

HERE'S THE SKINNY: Today, you can't turn on the television, open up a magazine or listen to the radio without being bombarded by the newest diet pill and weight-loss program advertisements. It seems that women will go to any extreme to lose a couple of pounds and fit into that smaller dress. Some women -- Type 1 diabetics -- will even skip taking their insulin to lose weight, which is a disorder known as diabulimia. Diabulimia is most common in adolescent girls.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 to 40 percent of female teens neglect taking their insulin doses in order to lose weight. When Type 1 diabetics fail to administer insulin, something is crucial to their survival, their bodies are placed into a starvation mode because they cannot access the glucose and must break down fat and muscle into ketone bodies for fuel. "The body is literally eating away at itself; when you burn this bodily tissue, you wind up with diabetic ketoacidosis which can be fatal," Ann Goebel-Fabbri, Ph.D., a psychologist at Southwind Diabetes Center and professor at Harvard University School of Medicine in Boston, told Ivanhoe. Without insulin, blood sugar levels increase drastically and are urinated out; it's a way to purge calories. Serious risks are associated with diabulimia such as damage to eyes, kidneys, limbs, circulatory system, nerves and the heart. Diabulimics could also suffer from diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the eye begin to grow on the retina, resulting in vision loss. If you are a Type 1 diabetic or know someone who is, watch out for the first signs of diabulimia: weight loss, excessive thirst, frequent urination, low energy, and disregard for insulin treatment.

BACK TO THE BASICS: Diabulimia was first studied in the 1980s, but has only now surfaced as a serious eating disorder that, according to Corrine Bennett, author of SUGAR SHOCK!, over 450,000 Type 1 diabetic women suffer from.

While diabulimia is life-threatening, there are plenty of treatments and ways diabulimics can get better. When Type 1 diabetics begin taking insulin again, their body recovers, as the insulin permits the body to move from a starvation state to one where food is used as energy. The normal amount of insulin allows the body to normally flush out sugars through urine. Diabulimics should seek help from an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the endocrine system, in order to correctly adjust insulin doses. Dietitians are helpful in assisting with nutrition and a therapist can help in overcoming the eating disorder. As the medical community expands its knowledge of diabulimia, more successful treatment options can help to heal those who suffer from this disorder.

 

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