Apple plans to donate 1000 Apple Watches to the Binge Eating Genetics INitiative (BEGIN), a new study being conducted by the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine on binge-eating disorders, according to CNBC. The study is intended to provide a better understanding of compulsive overeating and compensatory behaviour such as purging or excessive exercise, known as bulimia nervosa, with the goal of developing better treatments for both conditions. According to the report, the researchers for the study, which is part of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at UNC under the auspices of the Department of Psychiatry, are hoping to recruit 1000 participants aged 18 or older who have experience with one of the subject disorders.
Participants will then use a mobile app called “Recovery Record” which will help them log their thoughts and feelings for sharing with a doctor ahead of a session. “We need to collect data from a whole lot of people to see what it looks like,” says Cynthia Bulik, founding director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. “We want to know if it has a biological and behavioral signature.” Each participant will be given a free Apple Watch, courtesy of Apple, which will allow researchers to monitor the subjects’ heart rates using over the course of a month to see if there are spikes before binge eating episodes. Bulk notes that it’s likely that binging and purging episodes would cause a biological change of some form that researchers hope will appear in the Apple Watch data. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder, and researchers hope that the data from the study will provide a way to predict — and ultimately prevent — binge eating incidents before they happen.