Tech supports anorexia treatment, research

Woman using smartphone
Genetic sequencing and mHealth apps could help close the treatment gaps for anorexia.

Researchers and mHealth companies are partnering with a nonprofit project aimed at closing treatment gaps for patients diagnosed with anorexia.

Project Heal, which raises approximately $1 million each year to treat anorexia, is teaming up with mHealth apps like Recovery Record, which allows patients to collect and share self-reported data in between appointments, according to Fast Company. Leaders of Project Heal eventually want to create an online community where patients battling anorexia can discuss treatment options.

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Experts have previously said that although there are a growing number of behavioral health apps, the industry is still in its infancy. However, some physicians have argued that even bad mental health apps are better than none at all.

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Meanwhile, researchers with the University of North Carolina are digging into the genetics behind eating disorders. A study that is scheduled to publish within the year intends to show how a combination of specific genes leaves some people predisposed to anorexia.

Anorexia "is perceived as a product of girls wanting to lose weight to look like models, but that's simply not true,” Cynthia Balik, founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders told Fast Company.

Advocates of precision medicine have said genetic sequencing could play a key role in treating behavioral health conditions like depression, but some researchers have pushed for more caution.

Last year, Stanford Medicine teamed up with Google Genomics to allow physicians greater access to genetic testing in an effort to further personalize medicine.