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Binge Eating Disorder & Diabetes

Binge eating disorder (BED) and Type 2 Diabetes may seem unrelated. However, both are conditions that are far too prevalent in our society and the link between the two might be closer than you think.

Studies show that individuals diagnosed with BED have a higher prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes when compared to the general population [1].

Not only that, it appears that individuals diagnosed with BED have a higher risk of acquiring Type 2 Diabetes [1].

Disorders Defined
To understand this relationship, let’s first consider the mechanism of each disease.

Over 400 million individuals worldwide are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, a medical disorder where the body experiences insulin resistance. It cannot use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to convert glucose (sugar) into energy and helps to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood [2].

This is an important job, as having too much sugar in the blood can result in hyperglycemia and too little sugar in the blood results in hypoglycemia. Both of these can result in hunger, trembling, sweating, anxiety, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, weakness, and more [2].

With Type 2 Diabetes, the body will use the pancreas to make extra insulin. However, this is not sustainable, and eventually, the body cannot produce enough insulin to maintain blood glucose at normal levels [2].

Binge Eating Disorder is a disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food, often to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Individuals with BED often report a loss of control during the binge and shame and guilt afterward.

How are They Related?
Studies have pretty firmly established that there is a correlation between BED and Type 2 Diabetes, but, how?

The connection may lie in the biological effects that occur after an individual binges.

Binge eating results in metabolic changes in the individual such as raised blood pressure.

In fact, one study found that “one day of high-fat overfeeding in humans resulted in significant increases in postprandial glucose by 17.1% and reductions in whole-body insulin sensitivity by 28% [1].”

Medical report - eating disorderPut more simply, a binge messes with your blood sugar levels and, therefore, your insulin and insulin sensitivity.

This relationship, however, can go both ways – with diabetes resulting in BED instead of the other way around.

Diets that are low calorie have been shown to improve Type 2 Diabetes significantly and “induce remission in 46% of patients with recent onset Type 2 Diabetes [1].”

As such, low calorie diets are recommended by clinicians, which could lead individuals to engage in binge eating.

What Does This Mean?
This means what it often means when we find behaviors and disorders that are correlated to disordered eating – that they need to be taken into account.

Clinicians prescribing low-calorie diets to patients with Type 2 Diabetes need to be aware of the harmful and negative consequences that could result.

Clinician treating individuals with BED need to be aware of the possible diabetic complications that the disorder could cause and look for signs of this.

Knowing that these two disorders are related means that medical and mental health professionals treating either disorder need to be aware of the relationship and consider it when screening for individual’s health and when providing treatment.