Eating behaviours of adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Does gender matter?

Another paper of the Diabetes Miles Youth – Australia study has recently been published.

by Dr Christel Hendrieckx


This paper reports the results of the first Australian study on prevalence of problematic eating behaviours and body dissatisfaction in a national sample of adolescents with type 1 diabetes using diabetes-specific and gender-specific measures. Participants in the Diabetes MILES Youth between the age of 13 and 19 years (N=477) completed the Diabetes Eating Problem Survey -Revised (DEPS-R) and the Body Mass Index Silhouette Matching Test (BMI-SMT).

Females had higher scores on the DEPS-R than males, with scores for females increasing with age. Another difference for gender was that 50% of female and 18% of male adolescents scored above the DEPS-R cut-off. This cut-off has been defined as a greater risk for problematic eating behaviours. Self-reported BMI, HbA1c, insulin omission, and binge eating frequency were associated moderately with DEPS-R for both genders. This is a novel and important finding demonstrating that male adolescents with type 1 diabetes are also impacted by problematic eating behaviours, and adds to the paucity of research into this understudied subgroup.

Only 10% of females and 24% of males were satisfied with their actual body size. For those who were dissatisfied there was a difference in gender. 88% of the females and 43% of the males expressed a desire to be thinner; while 33% of males and 2% of the females desired a larger body size. Body dissatisfaction and DEPS-R were positively associated for both genders. The adolescents were also asked to indicate the size they believed they would be without diabetes. 59% of females and 38% of males believed they would be bigger than their ideal size without diabetes; 25% of females and 39% of males believed they would be at their ideal size if they did not have type 1 diabetes.

Our study provided support for the DEPS-R to be a useful screening tool for identifying problematic eating behaviours as well as potential body image issues, among female adolescents with type 1 diabetes. However, for the majority of male adolescents, specific items within the DEPS-R may require modification or additional items to better capture their desire to be more muscular. Further, we believe that elevated DEPS-R scores provide an indication that the adolescent experiences difficulties in combining management of their diabetes, weight and healthy eating. Consequently, individuals with high DEPS-R scores warrant attention, and may require additional support with their diabetes management and/or are potentially at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Araia E, Hendrieckx C, Skinner T, Pouwer F, Speight J, King RM. Gender differences in disordered eating behaviors and body dissatisfaction among adolescents with type 1 diabetes: Results from Diabetes MILES Youth—Australia. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2017, DOI: 10.1002/eat.22746

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