Learn More about Eating Disorder Research Studies

What are Eating Disorder Research Studies?

An eating disorder is a serious condition that has been linked to disturbances in poor eating behaviors and the emotions and thoughts that come with it. Obsessive thoughts over body shape, weight, and food all point to an eating disorder.

Eating disorders do not categorize as a lifestyle choice. Common eating disorders consist of binge-eating, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa.

Eating disorder research studies are needed to prevent and diagnose the condition earlier while forming treatment plans. Familiarity with this condition can lead to increased empathy and consciousness for individuals struggling with eating disorders. Moreover, research studies can help lower the stigma attached to mental illnesses.

Eating disorders are devasting to the body, and as the world becomes more aware of nutrition and food science, educating individuals has never been more important.

Eating disorder research studies are needed to study the neurobiology behind the condition and debunk the environment and culture to derive common myths like eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Research Studies

Why is Eating Disorder being Studied in Research Studies?

Misunderstandings about mental health conditions are common, but misinformation about eating disorders is shockingly widespread.

The emphasis on this condition is a culturally guided phenomenon, and medical definitions focus on external factors like traumatic events that lead to disordering eating, attitudes towards weight and diet, and cultural pressure.

Eating disorders are associated with increased psychological distress, premature death, and medical complications. In fact, they have the highest impact on quality of life, especially compared to other psychiatric disorders.

Moreover, the burden of treating eating disorders continues to increase every year, especially when associated with anxiety and depression. This condition is common in all populations, including males and females. The most common is a binge eating disorder in children, leading to obesity as patients grow older.

It is vital to remember that it is possible to recover from an eating disorder. However, for this to happen, early intervention and detection are compulsory. Individuals who have been struggling with an eating disorder for less than a year or two are more likely to respond to treatments, and they usually do not develop as many physical health complications. However, if not detected early, this condition has poor prospects.

Recovery from eating disorders is a long process and can last anywhere between one to six years. This is a complex and serious illness that, without proper treatment, impacts the quality of life and the health system and community.

How Does Eating Disorder Treatment Work?

Eating disorders may lead to a range of health issues, such as:

  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Stunted growth
  • Osteoporosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Digestive problems
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Menstruation problems that lead to infertility or pregnancy issues
Eating Disorder Treatment

Some available treatments for eating disorders include:


Psychological therapy is the most common treatment plan for treating eating disorders. It aims to help patients normalize their eating behavior and maintain a healthy weight. Moreover, it helps replace unhealthy ways of eating with healthy ones. Psychotherapy is about helping patients monitor their diet and mood, learn problem-solving skills, and improve their relationship with food.

Different types of therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy focuses on thoughts, behaviors, and feelings associated with eating disorders. Once you develop healthy eating patterns, this therapy is used to change negative thoughts around eating behaviors.
  • Family-based therapy: Family members are a part of the therapy group as they help individuals restore eating patterns and get to a healthy weight until they can do it by themselves. This therapy is recommended for those dealing with a teen with an eating disorder.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (group): Patients meet a healthcare professional with others suffering from an eating disorder. This group therapy can help identify behaviors, feelings, and thoughts associated with an eating disorder. Moreover, it can help manage intrusive thoughts and teach good eating behavior.

Nutrition Education

Dietitians and health professionals help patients recognize and understand healthy eating patterns while encouraging healthy habits.

Nutrition education can allow patients to meal plan, strive for a healthy weight, learn the effects of nutrition on the body, avoid bingeing or dieting, and build good habits.


Even though medications alone do not cure eating disorders, when used alongside psychological therapy, they can help with the condition.

The most common medications prescribed include antidepressants, as they can aid in helping purging and binge-eating behaviors. However, based on the individual, other medications can also be given alongside antidepressants.

Antidepressants can be helpful for individuals struggling with binge eating or bulimia as they help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Patients who are anorexic, cannot eat, and struggle with mental and physical issues associated with their eating disorder may require hospitalization. Moreover, anorexia can lead to life-threatening health conditions that require urgent attention.

Mostly, hospitalization helps treat medical symptoms that arise during the process of fixing weight and eating problems. Hence, restoration usually happens during outpatient settings.

What are Some of the Recent Breakthroughs Involving Eating Disorders?

2013: Developing Practical Approaches to Eating Disorders: Developing a Skilled Workforce - This research paper found that individuals at risk of developing eating disorders include young professionals, children, and women of all ages. This disorder usually targets those with a family history of the illness, individuals trying to lose weight, pregnant women, indigenous communities, and those who have infertility, PCOS, and diabetes.

Moreover, this eating disorder research study recognizes that skilled professionals need treatment for eating disorders to allow them to function better. This includes physical, nutritional, and psychological treatment. Eating disorders can only be dealt with using a multidisciplinary, integrated network of specialists and primary care. Moreover, depending on the age of the patient and the duration they have been suffering from this condition, the study recommends close liaison with social work, education, and voluntary sectors.

Currently, current funding models believe that all health professionals are qualified to deal with eating disorders. However, research has shown that a majority of training providers are not trained to properly assess and treat this condition and are not comfortable with undertaking this role.

It is vital for clinicians to recognize the professional limitations of offering holistic and effective support to patients dealing with an eating disorder. Hence, proper training and supervision must take place to recognize those at risk for eating disorders and treat struggling patients.

2020: Breakthrough Research in Anorexia Nervosa - Anorexia Nervosa (AN) impacts 0.3-0.4 percent of young women and 0.1 percent of young men on any regular day. This condition is one of the leading causes of death in young adults and adolescents- children between the ages of 15 and 24 are than ten times more likely to die than their peers.

AN is a genetic disease that runs in families. Researchers have compared AN rates in fraternal and identical twins and found that genetics increase the risk of this condition by 60 percent. This is important information as it helps demystify AN and allows institutions to conduct research on AN.

Deep brain stimulation, psychedelic medicine, and medications can help treat AN. However, it is vital to study the reward system of the brain and how it behaves differently in individuals with AN. This study researched people with AN and found that in people with AN, food intake did not have any effects on the brain’s reward system.

Even though individuals with AN are obsessed with food, they cannot get themselves to eat. Patterns of restrictive eating lead to severe weight loss in these individuals. These patients express panic, anxiety, and extreme discomfort when they have to eat food to save themselves from starvation.

The study also shows a link between AN and the body’s ability to metabolize sugars and fats. This means that AN could be a biological condition.

Researchers have also started to notice how there are similarities in genetic associated found in depression, OCD, and other psychiatric diseases. They suspect that the reinforcement systems in the brain are affected early on- dieting and starvation during the early years may cause an early onset of smoking, drug use, and binge drinking.

Who are the Key Opinion Researchers/ Institutions on Eating Disorder Research Studies?

Journal of Eating Disorders - Avoidant/ restrictive food intake (ARFID) was a condition introduced in 2013. In the past decade, this institution has seen a bunch of research on this condition. The journal has dedicated its resources to understanding the course of ARFID and other eating disorders. It calls for researchers to get together to find tailored treatment plans for individuals suffering from any eating disorder conditions.

This journal is working towards understanding how eating disorders affect transgender medication, atypical anorexia, electrolyte and renal disturbances, cardiology, bone health, gastroenterology, and endocrine. It reviews present research on eating disorders, influences on the condition by the environment, binge eating, anorexia nervosa, and imagery rescripting trauma treatment in patients suffering from eating disorders.

Eating Disorders Research Group at Kings College London - This research group is working tirelessly on studying how psychological, genetic, and neurobiological factors influence bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and a range of other eating disorders. Moreover, they are trying to find treatments for this condition.

The group at Kings College London is working with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) to closely analyze patients suffering from the mentioned condition. A range of research projects is also hosted for families and patients in collaboration with BEAT, a popular eating disorders charity in the United Kingdom.

Columbia University Department of Psychiatry - The Columbia Center for Eating Disorders is a renowned program that has been working endlessly to find the treatment for eating disorders. It has been around since 1979 and is currently being led by Dr. Evelyn Attia.

Dr. Evelyn Attia is focused on finding the treatment for anorexia nervosa and studying the psychobiology surrounding this condition. Over the years, she has received an abundance of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which has helped with her research.

Moreover, the Columbia University department is closely linked to the New York State Psychiatric Institute, which provides a range of clinical services to patients suffering from eating disorders.