B4131 - Early risks and mechanisms associated with eating disorders in adolescence - 04/01/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Kirsty Samantha Lee | University of Warwick (United Kingdom)
Yuyao Cheng, Professor Dieter Wolke
Title of project: 
Early risks and mechanisms associated with eating disorders in adolescence
Proposal summary: 

Eating disorders (i.e., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder) are psychiatric disorders with the highest mortality rate and frequently onset in adolescence. Given the negative consequences of eating disorders (e.g., early mortality and other health problems), it is critical to understand early risk factors. As pregnancy and early childhood are important periods for the growth and development of children, this research will use a biopsychosocial model to examine early risks in the prenatal period, infancy, and childhood that may increase the risk of eating disorders in adolescence. Data for this research will be drawn from the UK ALSPAC longitudinal cohort and three key questions will be addressed: 1) Does smoking during pregnancy increase the risk of eating disorders in adolescent offspring? 2) Compared with formula feeding, do breastfed adolescents have a lower risk of eating disorders in adolescence? 3) Do infant regulatory problems (crying, sleeping, and feeding problems) predict eating disorders in adolescence?

Impact of research: 
The study may highlight the need to enhance public health interventions on smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as potential early triggers for the development of psychiatric problems in offspring, specifically eating disorders. If, as we predict, prenatal smoke exposure, increases the risk adolescent psychopathology and eating disorders, The results of this study would support government policy to further address smoking as a public health issue. Increased funding and the enhanced development of plans or policies may be needed to encourage pregnant women, their partners and families to stop smoking, provide further guidance to hospitals and communities and the adverse consequences of smoke exposure, enhanced smoking cessation services and health education, and social media and public media information campaigns If, as we predict, breastfeeding is associated with increased risk of eating disorders, this research could help governments establish policies and action plans to further support breastfeeding. Clinicians may require enhanced skills training to provide quality breastfeeding advice and practical support for mothers and protect caregivers and mothers from unethical marketing by the formula industry. If, as we predict, early regulatory problems are associated with adolescent eating disorders, this study will provide novel insights into the pathway from infant dysregulation to adolescent eating disorders. This will be important for the next steps of prevention science, by targeting factors in the early childhood period. We expect that bullying victimisation may further mediate this pathway, and that anti-bullying legislation, monitoring, and interventions are needed.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 15 November, 2022
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 4 January, 2023
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Pregnancy - e.g. reproductive health, postnatal depression, birth outcomes, etc., GWAS, Statistical methods, Birth outcomes, Breast feeding, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Nutrition - breast feeding, diet, Psychology - personality, Sex differences