Diabetes sufferers misuse insulin to lose weight, says charity

Diabetes blood sugar monitor and injection Sufferers manipulate insulin intake so that they lose weight

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A diabetes charity in Wales says it is increasingly concerned about the number of sufferers who stop taking their medication in order to lose weight.

The term diabulimia is used to describe diabetics, usually with type 1 diabetes, who stop taking their insulin in order to become thinner.

Around one in three women under the age of 30 may be abusing insulin, according to Diabetes UK.

The Welsh government said educating diabetes sufferers was the key.

Jacqueline Allan, who suffered from diabulimia and set up a charity to help fellow sufferers, said the condition is no different to other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

"It was a pathological fear of weight gain and a complete obsession with losing weight," she told BBC Radio Wales.

"The only thing which changed was the mechanism by which I lost weight.

Diabetes, insulin and weight loss facts

  • Diabetics who are reliant on insulin find that it is a storage hormone, and promotes fat
  • If patients miss injections, or manipulate dosage, they could theoretically reduce weight
  • The side effects of manipulating and omitting insulin from the body can be serious and dangerous
  • Blood sugar levels can surge and reach an unhealthy level, leading to fatigue, dehydration and eventually wearing of the muscle tissue

Source: Diabetes UK Wales

"I started the charity because one of the things we do is advocate for people with type 1 diabetes and eating disorders," she added.

Dai Williams, national director for Diabetes UK Cymru, said that since 2003 it was mandatory that everyone diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is instructed on how to manage the condition.

But he claimed only 2% of diabetics in Wales were getting the information they needed.

"If you don't understand your diabetes... it's not just a case of managing it properly, it's understanding the consequences of mismanaging it, and that's one of the problems," he added.

A Welsh government spokesperson said if diabetes is not managed properly, it can lead to very serious health problems.

"The good news is, by educating people with the condition so they have the knowledge and confidence they need to keep their diabetes under control, quality of life is improved vastly," said a spokesperson.

"It is disappointing so few young people in Wales are accessing structured education about their diabetes.

"The Welsh government is committed to the structured education programme and this will be re-enforced in our new Diabetes Delivery Plan, which will be published for consultation soon."

The plan will have a clear aim of improving provision, awareness and uptake of courses across Wales, the spokesperson added.

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