Unique Concerns of Diabetes and Binge Eating Disorder

Two girls sleeping

Researchers in Rio d Janeiro, Brazil, with the State Institute Diabetes and Endocrinology, are recommending routine screening for eating disorder symptoms in the care of people with type 2 diabetes. This recommendation comes after the researchers, led by Marcelo Papelbaum, MD, Ph.D., examined the impact of glycemic control in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and published the results in the Journal of Eating Disorders. [1]

According to the Harvard Medical School, Type 2 diabetes is characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. It is often referred to as adult-onset diabetes though it is possible to develop it in childhood or adolescence. [2] Symptoms include excessive urination, thirst, hunger, weight loss, and increased vulnerability to infection.

Managing T2DM involves a great deal of attention to diet, exercise, and blood sugar monitoring. Doctors often recommend weight loss as well for diabetes patients. All of these elements may contribute to feelings of frustration, anxiety, anger, depression, and failure. Along with the biological factors, these emotions can trigger binges as a form of coping.

Glycemic control is “the cornerstone of diabetes control,” and it “requires a meticulous balance of insulin replacement with diet and exercise.” [3]

Papelbaum and his team wanted to understand better the relationship between glycemic control and eating disorders, specifically those with binge eating disorder behaviors, “Eating behavior is an important aspect related to diabetes treatment. Indeed, previous studies had already observed higher rates of eating disordered behaviors, specifically binge eating disorder, in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients.” In other words, are individuals who use eating disorder behaviors more likely to have worse glycemic levels?

woman on beach fighting Diabetes and Binge Eating DisorderThe researchers found “that patients who exhibited binge eating-related eating psychopathology had worse glycemic levels than those without an ED in the presence of a higher BMI.

While there is still a great deal to be learned about the relationship between diabetes and bingeing behaviors, the researchers speculate that “the remission of binge episodes could play a major role in diabetes treatment.” Papelbaum and his team call for more research to be done, in hopes that helping individuals diagnosed with both type 2 diabetes and binge-related eating disorders such as binge eating disorder and bulimia would gain a greater sense of self-efficacy and an improved quality of life.

This begins with greater awareness among physicians about the increased likelihood of eating disorders among those with type 2 diabetes, “In the usual care of people with type 2 diabetes, we recommend routine screening for eating disorder symptoms.”


[1] Papelbaum, M., Moreira, R. D. O., Coutinho, W. F., Kupfer, R., Freitas, S., Luz, R. R., & Appolinario, J. C. (2019). Does binge-eating matter for glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients? Journal of Eating Disorders, 7(1). doi: 10.1186/s40337-019-0260-4
[2] Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, December). Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/type-2-diabetes-mellitus-a-to-z
[3] Science Direct. (n.d.). Glycemic Control. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/glycemic-control

About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.

This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is wtravisstewart.com

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published February 11, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 11, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.