Eating Disorders

The Eating Disorder Research Lab at the CHEO Research Institute is comprised of researchers, clinician-scientists, as well as dedicated research staff, who are recognized international leaders in the field of pediatric eating disorders. Building on a long-standing research portfolio, the team has led clinical, psychopharmacologic, and treatment studies, patient priority studies, and risk factor research examining all aspects of eating disorders.

Current studies underway:

  • Social and economic study of eating disorders during the COVID-19: what the pandemic cost youth, families and the system. Using national datasets and qualitative interviews, this first of its kind in Canada study is hoping to translate findings for system level considerations.
  • Early intervention in eating disorders: implementation research on an early intervention model of care from the UK, the FREED model, that will be co-adapted with young people for use in Ontario’s integrated youth services.
  • A 15-year follow-up study to the Research on Eating and Adolescent Lifestyle (REAL) study is currently being conducted. The REAL study was an Ontario school-based study (2004-2013) of 3000 youth that examined a joint model of biological, environmental, and individual risk factors contributing to eating disorders, obesity, and body image concerns in youth.
  • The Precision Child Mental Health in Eating Disorders (PCMH-ED) study aiming to examine how biological markers such as blood, sleep, gut bacteria, smell, and taste can offer a biological picture to create individualized care for young people with severe eating disorders.

Eating disorders research in action:

The Eating Disorders Research Lab has been collaborating with clinical and lived experience partners to design and pilot FREEDcan, an early intervention model for eating disorders for integrated community settings. FREEDcan focuses on widespread screening and early detection for eating disorders, supporting both early response and early intervention pathways for youth aged 12-25. FREEDcan adds to the continuum of support and treatment for eating disorders in Canada, providing opportunity for early intervention and new ways to get evidence-based support earlier. It also helps to build the eating disorders workforce by equipping integrated community settings with the knowledge and skills they need to be eating disorder informed – spaces where young people can feel comfortable when it comes to disordered eating and eating disorders

Related News

Research Projects

  1. Changes in breakfast and water consumption among adolescents in Canada: examining the impact of COVID-19 in worsening inequity


    Prospective annual survey data collected pre- (October 2019-March 2020) and post-COVID-19 onset (November 2020-June 2021) the Cannabis, Obesity, Mental health, Physical activity, Alcohol, Smoking, and Sedentary behaviour (COMPASS) study. The sample consisted of 8,128 students; mean (SD) age = 14.2 (1.3) years from a convenience sample of 41 Canadian secondary schools. At both timepoints self-reported breakfast and water consumption were dichotomized as daily or not. Multivariable logistic generalized estimating equations with school clustering were used to estimate differences in maintenance/adoption of daily consumption post-COVID-19 based on demographic factors, while controlling for pre-COVID-19 behaviour.

  2. A framework for conceptualizing early intervention for eating disorders


    Attending to these recommendations would transform ED service provision and allow early intervention to be a standard part of best practice care. Progress in other areas of psychiatry shows that this is possible.

  3. Translation and validation of the Child Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (CTFEQr17) in French-speaking Canadian children and adolescents


    Conclusion: The CTFEQr17 is suitable to use among French-speaking Canadian young individuals.

  4. The impact of COVID-19 on adolescents with eating disorders: a cohort study


    Further research is required to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the clinical course and outcomes of EDs in adolescents.

  5. No association between dopaminergic polymorphisms and response to treatment of binge-eating disorder


    Future studies should examine a greater variety of dopaminergic polymorphisms, other candidate genes that target other neurotransmitter systems, as well as examine their impact on both behavioral and pharmacological-based treatment for BED.

  6. Association of the dopamine D2 receptor rs1800497 polymorphism with food addiction, food reinforcement, and eating behavior in Chilean adults


    The DRD2 polymorphism is associated with some hedonic aspects of eating behavior, namely food reinforcement and emotional eating but not food addiction, and this association may be moderated by sex and obesity status, with obese women who are carriers of this genetic variant at higher risk.

  7. Cocreating research priorities for anorexia nervosa: The Canadian Eating Disorder Priority Setting Partnership


    This project, which closely followed the James Lind Alliance guidelines, solicited research priorities from the Canadian eating disorder community by means of a five‐step process including use of a survey, response collation, literature checking, interim ranking survey, and in‐person prioritization workshop.

  8. Characteristics and clinical trajectories of patients meeting criteria for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder that are subsequently reclassified as anorexia nervosa


    Prospective longitudinal research that utilizes ARFID‐specific as well as traditional eating disorder diagnostic measures is required to better understand how patients with restrictive eating disorders that deny fear of weight gain can be differentiated and best treated.

  9. Severe alcohol intoxication among Canadian Youth: A 2-year surveillance study


    Although rates of alcohol use in adolescents have been steadily decreasing, results from this surveillance study suggest that severe intoxication arising from the use of alcohol alone, and with concurrent substance use, results in significant immediate health consequences in young adolescents.

  10. Development of the Ottawa Disordered Eating Screen for Youth: The ODES-Y


    Our findings suggest that the index test has utility as a short and accurate screening tool for earlier detection of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors in youth.

  11. Use of cyproheptadine to stimulate appetite and body weight gain: A systematic review


    Future prospective randomized controlled studies in low weight patients that include objective measures of appetite and intake are needed to better understand the mechanism by which CY augments weight gain.

  12. Adolescent pregnancy and eating disorders: a minireview and case report


    Further research is needed to identify risks of EDs in adolescent pregnancy, to explore the trajectory of pre-existing EDs during pregnancy and to identify effective interventions for prolonging remission into the post-partum period.


  1. Annick Buchholz

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  2. Jean-Philippe Chaput

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  3. Gary Goldfield

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  4. Megan Harrison

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  5. Danijela Maras

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  6. Mark Norris

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  7. Nicole Obeid

    Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  8. Noah Spector

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  9. Wendy Spettigue

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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  1. Leanne van der Zweep

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