Using modern causal inference methods and general population data to investigate the role of inflammation in the aetiology of eating disorders
Dr Francesca Solmi
University College London
Eating disorders are severe psychiatric conditions that usually start in adolescence. Their cause is poorly understood. Research has shown that infections experienced as a fetus and in childhood, autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, and inflammation in response to infection or injury could increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, including depression and psychosis. However, little research has investigated the relationship between inflammation and eating disorders.
I will study whether a person’s risk of developing an eating disorder is increased by: exposure to infection during pregnancy or childhood; having high levels of inflammation in childhood; or having high genetic risk for autoimmunity. I will investigate this using data from large datasets and biological markers of inflammation and genes.
This research will help us understand more about what causes eating disorders so that we can develop interventions to reduce the risk.