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Many Girls With Diabetes, PKU Have Symptoms of Eating Disorders

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"By the time they get to age 18, about one-third of diabetic girls admit to taking less insulin at some time for the purpose of preventing weight gain," Rodin says. This practice is extremely dangerous, says Rodin, whose own research found that diabetic girls with eating disorders had a threefold increase in the risk of retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eye).

"In diabetes, we know that dietary restriction is a risk factor for [eating disorders]," he says. "This study also suggests that in another disease in which there is dietary restriction, PKU, there may be a similar increase in eating disorders." He suggests more study is needed to confirm the findings.

"Historically, the message for treating diabetes has been one of a restrictive diet and a tighter approach to regulation and management. In diabetic girls, we know that's been counterproductive, leading to binge eating and omitting insulin. Now, there's a tendency to normalize eating and try to tailor insulin to the diet," Rodin says.

Girls and young women are surrounded by pressures to be thin and beautiful, says Chrisler. "My message to girls with these medical conditions is that you can't be beautiful if you're not healthy. Your health must come first. There are many ways to be beautiful -- weight is not the only way."

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