CEED Celebrates Junior Faculty Development Awardees

BY: Elisa Klein

DATE: December 15, 2015

UNC CEED is proud to announce that two faculty members received Junior Faculty Development Awards recently.

Jessica Baker

Jessica Baker, PhD, received an award for the following proposal summary:

Eating disorders are often erroneously stereotyped as disorders of youth, yet eating disorder treatment facilities have reported up to a 400% increase in the admission of patients over 40 in the last 12 years. The risk factors involved in the development of an eating disorder at midlife are unclear; however the menopause transition has been suggested as a period of risk for eating disorder development as a research study found that the prevalence of eating disorders were higher in midlife women experiencing the menopause transition compared with midlife women at pre- or post-menopause. Given the compelling evidence that changing estrogen levels are involved in eating disorder risk during adolescence and young adulthood and that the menopause transition is a time of significant change in estrogen levels, there is a strong rationale for examining the influence of estrogen on eating disorder risk during the menopause transition. Thus, the goal of this proposal is to examine the direct association between changing estrogen and eating disorder symptoms during the menopause transition, capitalizing on methodology used in the young adult literature. Specifically, I will obtain daily estrogen samples from midlife women during the menopause transition and examine the association between estrogen variability and eating disorder symptoms. This will allow me to examine whether estrogen fluctuation during this time of extreme change influences the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms as it does in young adults. The results of this proposal will shed light on the risk for midlife eating disorders and assist in creating risk profiles informed by developmental stage.


Hunna Watson, PhD, has proposed a series of analyses aimed at identifying transgenerational risk factors for eating disorders. The proposal is based on the ‘cycle of risk’ model which posits that genetic and environmental factors perpetuate eating disorders across generations. The comprehensiveness of the Norwegian Birth Registries in concert with the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort (MoBa), a prospective cohort study of 100,000 pregnancies, provides an unprecedented opportunity to fully articulate the CoR model. The CoR model, inspired by the work of Cnattingius et al., identified prematurity and cephalohemotoma as risk factors for later anorexia nervosa and posited that maternal eating disorders could influence pregnancy outcome. We have begun to develop this model through analyses with the MoBa dataset and found that women with eating disorders are at increased risk of pre-term birth, cesarean section, breech presentations and slow delivery progress. However, the cycle of risk across generations has not been examined. This research will generate cutting-edge insight into the transgenerational transmission of eating disorders, and is being undertaken by Drs Hunna Watson, Stephanie Zerwas, and Cynthia Bulik at UNC, and Norwegian collaborators.

Congratulations to our colleagues!