Diabetes, eating disorders and body image in young adults: an exploratory study about “diabulimia”



The purpose of this study was to compare disordered eating (DE) and body image dissatisfaction (BID) among young adults with type 1 diabetes and their peers without diabetes, to investigate the consequences of diabetes for food, body image and weight in individuals with diabetes and to identify the behavior of insulin omission as a weight loss strategy.


Fifty-five young adults with diabetes and 73 without diabetes (ages 18–30) completed self-report questionnaires to evaluate their behaviors, attitudes and feelings related to eating disorders and their perceptions about body image. The participants with diabetes were asked to answer a questionnaire with open and closed questions developed specifically for this study.


No significant differences between participants with and without diabetes in relation to BID and DE were found. The results demonstrated several changes resulting from diabetes in terms of food, body image and weight that interfere with the day-to-day life of individuals with diabetes; 7.3% of these participants reported insulin omission as a weight loss strategy.


This study emphasizes the importance of research on DE in the population with diabetes and their prevention, screening and treatment. In particular, it is essential to give more attention to insulin omission as a compensatory behavior that is inappropriate and harmful to health.

Level of evidence

Level III, case-control analytic study.

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This study was partially supported by the Research Center for Psychological Science (UID/PSI/04527/2013) of the Ministry of Science and Technology (FCT, Portugal). The authors would like to express appreciation to all the participants.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rita Francisco.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Falcão, M.A., Francisco, R. Diabetes, eating disorders and body image in young adults: an exploratory study about “diabulimia”. Eat Weight Disord 22, 675–682 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-017-0406-9

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  • Diabetes
  • Disordered eating
  • Body image dissatisfaction
  • Omission of insulin
  • Diabulimia
  • Young adults