Apple donates 1K smartwatches to UNC medical school to study eating disorders

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill are studying how well Apple Watches can help manage and track eating disorders, CNBC reports.

Up to 1,000 participants — all adults who have experience with either binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa — will be able to enroll in the Binge Eating Genetics Initiative, or BEGIN. These participants will receive a free Apple Watch, from which researchers will monitor their heart rate to see if there are spikes before binge eating episodes. Study enrollees will also be directed to sign up for the mobile app Recovery Record, which aims to help users keep track of their thoughts and feelings to share with their physicians.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD, founding director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at UNC School of Medicine and a researcher with BEGIN, told CNBC that a binging and purging episode could cause a biological change that would show up in the Apple Watch data.

"We need to collect data from a whole lot of people to see what it looks like," Dr. Bulik told the publication. "We want to know if it has a biological and behavioral signature."

The researchers hope their findings can be applied to help predict binge eating incidents before they happen.

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