International Collaboration May Create New Treatment Offers For Dangerous ‘Diabetic Bulimia’

Posted on 07.10.2020

The fear of putting on weight because of insulin therapy is making type 1 diabetes patients self-reduce their daily insulin requirement. A new project by British and Danish researchers will investigate this dangerous phenomenon.

On social media, it is often called ‘diabulimia’. Researchers call it ‘type 1 diabetes and diabetic bulimia’. The fear of putting on weight prevents many people from taking their required daily dosage of insulin. The consequences of this ‘diabetic bulimia’ include persistently high blood sugar and early incidence of diabetes complications, and it is one of the most frequent causes of premature death in young people with type 1 diabetes. Despite this, the condition is usually not detected in time.

As a visiting professor at the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Professor Khalida Ismail of King’s College Hospital, London will be studying the phenomenon over the next two years together with researchers and healthcare staff including personnel from the country’s other Steno Diabetes Centers – and from the UK. Their first task will be to discover the extent of the problem, and an epidemiological study will be set in motion to that end.

‘In the short term, the collaboration will raise disordered eating awareness among people with type 1 diabetes and among healthcare professionals. In the longer term, the collaboration will lay a scientific foundation for effective research-based treatment offers in Denmark and build a collaborative environment and network linking British and Danish researchers and practitioners’, says Khalida Ismail, who has set up Britain’s first clinic for type 1 diabetes and eating disorders.

Good results with British treatment offer

Khalida Ismail’s research has developed a set of diagnostic criteria for ‘diabetic bulimia’, and King’s College Hospital is currently trialling a new treatment offer including so-called insulin therapy restart and psychotherapy. The provisional results of this offer are promising. For example, participants’ physical and mental health is improving.

Ingrid Willaing, Leader of the Diabetes Management Research Group in the Health Promotion Department of the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, is looking forward to the collaboration on type 1 diabetes and eating disorders, as there is a growing problem in Denmark among both young people and adults. This makes Khalida Ismail’s visiting professorship, which will bring her to the country several times in the next few years and which the Danish Diabetes Academy has supported to the tune of DKK 300,000, an important one for Denmark.

‘Professor Khalida Ismail’s great knowledge and experience will help us to step up our own research and clinical innovations so as to improve patient-centred care, rather than reinventing the wheel. We will be able to adapt the research to Danish culture and clinical practice. There is a need for that’, says Ingrid Willaing.


Khalida Ismail, Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience,

King’s College London, UK

Has been awarded DKK 300,000 by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Title: Type 1 Diabetes and Disordered Eating

Research centre: Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen


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