The Sci-Files – 02/27/2022 – Megan Mikhail – Disadvantage and Eating Disorders – Overturning Stereotypes

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

Megan Mikhail
Megan Mikhail

On this week’s SciFiles, your hosts Chelsie and Daniel interview Megan Mikhail. Megan’s research focuses on the intersection between biological and environmental risk for eating disorders, with a particular focus on underserved and marginalized populations. Historically, eating disorders have been stereotyped as “vanity disorders” that predominantly affect advantaged (i.e., white, wealthy) individuals. Unfortunately, these stereotypes have led to the increased stigma around eating disorders, and limited access to care for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. In research including a representative sample of over 6,800 youth from the state of Michigan, Megan found that eating disorder symptoms were significantly greater in youth experiencing familial and neighborhood disadvantage. Moreover, genetic influences on eating disorder symptoms appeared to be expressed earlier and more strongly in these youth. Contrary to stereotypes, Megan’s research suggests that children and adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds may be at elevated risk for eating disorders, especially when they also have genetic vulnerabilities. Their research highlights the urgent need for access to screening and treatment for eating disorders for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are currently underserved.

Press release from MSU describing one of Megan’s recent studies: https://socialscience.msu.edu/news-events/news/2021-12-13.html

For people who may be worried about their food or eating, the National Eating Disorders Association offers support and resources: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

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