Eating disorders are common and problematic in adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

Eating disorders are common and problematic in adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

Young people with diabetes often struggle with diet in their teens.  A new systematic review looks at how common problems with eating are in adolescents with type 1 diabetes, in comparison with their non-diabetic peers.

Clinical question:

In young adults with type 1 diabetes, what is the prevalence of eating problems?

The review differentiated between eating disorders, such a anorexia, and problems with eating.  The review also looked at the relation between glycaemic control and problematic eating.

The evidence:

The reviewers found 13 studies reporting the prevalence of eating problems. When they pooled the data from these studies they concluded:

Eating problems and eating disorders were more common in adolescents with Type 1 diabetes compared with peers and both were associated with poorer glycaemic control.

Eating disorders had a prevalence of 7% among type 1 diabetics, compared with 2.8% in the general population.  The prevalence of eating problems was 39.3% vs 32.5%.  These patterns were consistent across other analyses.

Appraisal hints

  • Was the literature search comprehensive enough?
  • Were the studies assessed as being of high quality?
  • How were the comparisons made against the non-diabetic population?
  • Was follow-up long and complete enough?
  • Did they use equivalent definitions of disordered eating in the different studies?
  • Were the patient populations similar?
  • Was there much heterogeneity between the studies in terms of the rates of disordered eating?


Young V, Eiser C, Johnson B, Brierley S, Epton T, Elliott J, Heller S. Eating problems in adolescents with Type 1 diabetes: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2012 Aug 22. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03771.x.

Douglas Badenoch
I am an information scientist with an interest in making knowledge from systematic research more accessible to people who need it. This means you. I've been attempting this in the area of Evidence-Based Health Care since 1995. So far the results have been mixed. For some reason we expected busy clinicians to search databases and appraise papers instead of seeing patients. We also expected publishers to make the research freely available to the people who paid for it.. Ha! Hence The National Elf service.

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