Eating Disorders Awareness Week: FSU researchers available to share insights behind scientific findings

| Wed, 02/21/24
Xiaobing Zhang and Pam Keel from FSU's Department of Psychology
Xiaobing Zhang and Pam Keel from FSU's Department of Psychology are available to provide context about their research findings ahead of and throughout Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) is an annual campaign to garner public attention and engage in support for those affected by eating disorders. For 2024, the National Eating Disorders Association has designated Feb. 26-March 3 as EDAW.

Eating disorders research is rapidly evolving and examines many psychological and biological factors that may impact individuals and society. Understanding the research behind these disorders can lead to better support and effective treatment.

Florida State University researchers are available to speak to the media and share their research findings and implications.

Pam Keel

Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences 

Keel is a leading researcher in eating disorders. Her research tackles how eating disorders are defined, resulting in the identification of Purging Disorder as a condition affecting approximately 1 in 50 women worldwide. She has studied what happens to people with eating disorders through multiple long-term follow-up studies of women and men from late adolescence to late midlife, and she recently completed a large grant to examine the biobehavioral consequences of weight suppression in predicting eating disorder outcomes. Keel’s lab examines the impact of psychosocial factors such as social media use on risk for eating disorders.

“In June 2020, the most comprehensive analysis of the economic burden of eating disorders (ED) in the US reported 5.48 million people (1.66%) suffered from eating disorders in one year, costing the US economy $64.7 billion. In this same year, approximately 6,910 females and 3,290 males between the ages of 15 and 64 years lost their lives in the course of their ED, representing one death every 52 minutes as a direct result of eating disorders in the US. My research works to ensure that everyone is counted, employing rigorous scientific approaches to reveal underlying mechanisms and identifying key targets for intervention to alleviate the suffering of millions of people in the US and billions of people worldwide.”

Xiaobing Zhang

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences 

Zhang’s research focuses on dissecting the neural circuits that regulate food intake and feeding motivation, specifically relating to the role of neuroplasticity and brain dysfunction. This research has implications for how exactly the brain’s reward system may play in the development of obesity and eating disorders. Zhang’s lab is currently focused on neural circuits both within and outside of the hypothalamus for feeding regulation. 

“Eating is an innate and motivated behavior which is triggered by both internal metabolic signals and external food-associated environmental stimuli. However, individual eating habits and stressful environments may cause neuroplasticity in circuits for feeding and motivation that lead to eating disorders. Our research is devoted to revealing how the brain controls feeding motivation and what factors induce neuroplasticity to cause disordered motivation for food using transgenic mouse models. With our efforts, we hope to better understand the neural mechanism of common eating disorders and eventually contribute to novel strategies for curbing these disorders.”