Can Anorexia Cause Diabetes?


Anorexia is a serious, dangerous eating disorder. Although occasionally seen in men, it's most often seen in women, especially teenage girls. It is rampant in people who engage in professions like dancing, modeling and theater, where being thin is emphasized. While anorexia is known to cause loss of bone mass and minerals, stunted growth and osteoporosis, one question is somewhat less clear-cut: whether anorexia can cause diabetes.

Who Is Anorexic?

Anorexics are classified as people with a body weight that is 15% or lower than the safe body weight for their height, size and body frame. Anorexics are petrified of being overweight and therefore they hardly eat any food, however skinny they may be. An anorexic will adopt extreme measures to stay thin, including skipping meals, inducing vomit and excessive exercising.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where the blood has very high levels of blood sugar due to the inability of the body to either utilize or produce insulin, a hormone that produces necessary energy from sugary or starchy foods. The normal blood sugar range is 70-110 mg/dl. The state of having blood sugar lower than 70mg/dl is hypoglycemia and having blood sugar above 110mg/dl is hyperglycemia, also known as pre-diabetes, and can lead to diabetes. Very high blood sugar levels can also lead to coma or even death.


The erratic eating habits of a person suffering from anorexia and heavy exercising done by such a person to lose weight can in fact increase the chances of severe, unpredictable hypoglycemic events, and hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes. So anorexia can, even indirectly or in part, lead to diabetes, and it has been found that patients with both the diseases are at a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy that can turn into blindness.

Acquiring Diabetes from Anorexia

Though anorexia cannot medically cause diabetes directly, anorexics usually have their stage set for the onset of diabetes because of their eating disorder patterns. Anorexics tend to limit their choices of foods to stay thin, so they may end up eating a lot of unhealthy sugary diets, or simply not each enough, which can upset their blood sugar levels and lead to diabetes, usually Type I diabetes. If the poor anorexic diet leads to failure of a body organ such as the pancreas that is responsible for insulin production, you will end up with diabetes. Insulin metabolizes sugar, and with a scarcity of insulin in the body, the blood sugar will rise to abnormal levels, making the anorexic diabetic. However, this does not happen in every case.


Anorexia is a condition that must be treated with professional help as early as possible because it can prove to be life-threatening to the patient by indirectly setting a convenient launch pad for diseases like diabetes.

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