Eating disorders

Mental health

At a glance

Understanding how rare genetic conditions contribute to eating disorders

Lead researcher

Dr Samuel Chawner


Cardiff University



Amount awarded


Last updated



Dr Samuel Chawner will investigate two rare genetic conditions that can cause eating disorders in children and adolescents. His research, based at Cardiff University, will involve collaboration with Oslo University and the University of North Carolina, allowing access to leading international resources to understand the development of eating disorders.

01 Sam Chawner Picture Dr Samuel Chawner

Dr Chawner’s project will focus on two rare genetic conditions that are linked with extreme differences in body weight and abnormal eating behaviour. The genetic conditions are caused by DNA being deleted or duplicated on one of the chromosomes, known as ‘16p11.2 deletion syndrome’ and ‘16p11.2 duplication syndrome’. Individuals with 16p11.2 deletion syndrome are at high risk of obesity and eating binges, whereas patients with 16p11.2 duplication syndrome tend to be very underweight and at higher risk of anorexia. This project hopes to increase our knowledge of the development and early signs of eating disorders, and provide vital information to the families affected by these rare genetic conditions.

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Mental health - eating disorders and self-harm

  • Why is there a need to fund new research?

    In 2017 we identified eating disorders and self-harm as an area of mental health where we could make a real difference. These are devastating conditions which blight the lives of increasing numbers of young people and their families.

    Around 1.2 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, and other eating disorders such as bulimia can lead to severe medical complications.

    The UK’s rates of self-harm are among the highest in Europe and have increased steadily over the past decade. Repeated self-harm results in around 150,000 attendances at accident and emergency departments each year and is one of the top five causes of acute medical admission.

    Despite the devastating impact of these life-threatening disorders, our understanding of what drives them to develop is still limited.

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