Hugh Hefner will always be remembered as the man that gave the world Playboy and enjoyed the services of several live-in lovers, but a former girlfriend has given a glimpse into the late mogul's rarely publicised compassionate side.

Cristal Camden, who dated the iconic magazine founder for a year after meeting in 2003, has credited Hefner with saving her life after she developed an eating disorder.

Speaking to TMZ, Camden said that the Playboy mansion wasn't simply a hotbed of debauchery. There were also bonding moments among people who felt like family.

"When I moved to Los Angeles I met Hugh Hefner and he asked me to be his girlfriend and I accepted and I had a wonderful experience with him and the other girls. It was fun, it was like family," she said.

Camden went on to detail her secret battle with a bulimia, which she developed as a coping mechanism. Had he not intervened, she believes the eating disorder may have killed her.

Camden recalls the night that he took her aside to express his concern about her well-being. "He said: 'So I heard about how you're suffering.'

"'I want you to be happy and I want you to healthy and I want you to be around. I want you to be around for a long time and so you can have a long life and be happy.'"

She went on to state that Hefner, who was worth an estimated $43m (£32.4m) at the time of his death, didn't hesitate before offering her a shoulder and a financial helping hand, telling her he didn't want her to suffer. "He said :'Can I help you? I want to send you to treatment,' and he did."

Hefner, who is said to have bedded 2,000 women, died from natural causes on 27 September at the age of 91.

"If Hef hadn't pushed me and been like really supportive with those loving kind words that really motivated me to go to treatment, I think I still would be suffering, to be honest with you. Maybe not even here," she lamented.

Her revelations come days after Holly Madison opened up about her time in the Playboy Mansion, saying she was "freaked out and ashamed" after taking part in group sex sessions at the late publisher's mansion.

Hugh Hefner
Playboy founder and Editor-in-Chief Hugh Hefner (R), his girlfriend Bridget Marquardt (2nd R), Playboy Playmate Cristal Camden (3rd R) and Playboy Playmate Jilian Grace, attend a fashion show to introduce new Playboy Bunny costumes designed by Roberto Cavalli during a party for the fourth anniversary of the Palms Casino Resort November 4, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty