Apple is donating 1,000 watches for a new study to track binge eating

“The Apple Watch is in use by scientists across the country to monitor everything from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to postpartum depression,” Christina Farr reports for CNBC. “Now, researchers are aiming to see how well the device can track eating disorders.”

“The University of North Carolina’s medical school will soon be starting a study called BEGIN, which stands for Binge Eating Genetics Initiative, to better understand overeating,” Farr reports. “People with binge eating disorder often eat large amounts of food uncontrollably in a small period of time. Those who follow with compensatory behavior like purging or excessive exercise are typically diagnosed with bulimia nervosa.”

“Cynthia Bulik, founding director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at UNC and one of the researchers behind BEGIN, is hoping to recruit 1,000 participants, ages 18 or older, who have experience with either binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa,” Farr reports. “Each participant will be given a free watch, courtesy of Apple, and researchers will monitor their heart rate using the device’s sensor over the course of a month to see if there are spikes before binge eating episodes. It’s likely that a binging and purging episode would cause some biological change that would show up in the Apple Watch data, according to Bulik.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Good luck to Cynthia Bulik and BEGIN researchers!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “TJ” for the heads up.]


    1. “a.k.a. Product in exchange for privacy. How novel!”

      Umm, no. If you enter a medical study, you are already giving up a certain degree of privacy, if not a lot of privacy (depending on invasiveness of study and how much you have to be monitored in person).

      The participants likely get monetary compensation as well, like any other study. My daughter studies psychology at a campus that is also a teaching hospital; she periodically enters short, simple studies for $500 here and there.

      Apple Watch is probably is way to reduce invasiveness of having some kind of monitor strapped to you with electrodes all over the place (been there, done that when I was getting SleepApnea diagnosed). I’ll take the AppleWatch, thank you.

      In other words, the Study Personnel know no more, no less about each individual than they would in any case. In fact, they might actually know LESS — Apple watches could send all data to central data repository anonymously, no other identifier attached. Which you can’t do if you are doing any live monitoring or journaling!

      What Apple gets out of it is not the data, or even “selling” the data – it gets to say that the Watch is proven to be medically useful in one more area of life.

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