Apple to donate 1000 Watches to binge-eating study in another push for health

Bulimia has recieved little attention in research and funding, according to a recent study.

Apple Inc has donated thousands of its Watches to a study on binge-eating, a push to expand its applications in monitoring a wider range of health disorders, CNBC reported.

The Binge-Eating Genetic Initiative (BEGIN) is a study led by University of North California medical school. The study aims to get to the root causes that lead up to someone overeating, specifically, its genetics causes.

Those with a binge-eating problem have an apparently uncontrollable urge to consume large amounts of food over a short span of time.

Some even follow these episodes with working out excessively or purging, a related disorder called bulimia nervosa.

Representational image. Medical Xpress

Representational image. Medical Xpress

These are the illness that have seen little attention from the research community, a recent study reports, likely due to a lack of funding.

In one of its many research health pushes, Apple has donated a thousand Apple Watches for each of the study's participants to use as a monitoring tool.

The Watch will primarily monitor heart rates for spikes before the participants have a binge-eating episode, said the study’s flyer.

It’s likely that there may be some biological change at this time, which the Apple Watch may pick up with its sensors, Cynthia Bulik, a researcher associated with the BEGIN study said to CNBC.

"We need to collect data from a whole lot of people to see what it looks like," Bulik said. "We want to know if it has a biological and behavioural signature."

Apple Watch Series 4. Image: Apple

The ECG feature on the Apple Watch Series 4. Image: Apple

Other data recording will be feelings and thoughts of the participants through the day — fed into a mobile app called Recovery Record and shared with the doctor ahead of a consultation or session.

"We're interested to find out what happens in the time period leading up to the binge and the purge," Jenna Tregarthen, CEO of Recovery Record, said to CNBC.

"And we hope we can anticipate and ultimately change the course of that episode."

On top of surveying and monitoring heart rates, the study also tests the genetics and microbiome (gut bacteria) of the participants.

An important and rapidly growing field of study, the saliva and microbiome data collected from the patients will offer some insight into the genetic factors that may be at play in eating disorders.

This part of the study is outsourced to UBiome, a startup that develops at-home testing kits for bodily bacteria.

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