The Appetite Control and Energy Balance (ACEB) research group is part of our Human Appetite Research Unit (HARU). It has several areas of focus including:
- Peptides and gastrointestinal physiology
- Food choice and hedonics
- Physical activity and sedentary behaviour
- Weight management
- Obesity and weight stigma
- Satiation and satiety
Below are our research projects in the Appetite Control and Energy Balance group.
Most adults try to lose weight but fail to maintain it. Obesity is a key economic and healthcare challenge for Europe. Effective interventions and commercial programmes for weight loss are widely available, but most people re-gain their lost weight. Currently few comprehensive solutions exist to help Europeans manage weight loss maintenance (WLM).
Current research suggests the most promising evidence-based behaviour change techniques for weight loss maintenance are self-monitoring, goal setting, action control, building self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. Recent research also suggests that stress management and emotion regulation skills are key enablers of relapse prevention and weight-regain.
Information technology offers attractive tools for teaching and supporting these techniques, some of which are currently delivered through resource-intensive face-to-face therapies. digital-delivery includes networked-wireless tracking technologies, weighing scales and activity sensors, online tools and smart phone apps, multi-media resources and internet-based support. A broad choice of tools is most likely to be acceptable to users, who can pick and choose their own preferred technologies.
The NoHoW project tests whether digital-based delivery of the most promising evidence based behavior change techniques is effective for WLM. We will carry out a large-scale international 3-centre trial of information technology tools that implement the most up-to-date behavioural science research. This trial will establish the effectiveness of these ICT tools in supporting weight loss maintenance, linked to studies of European consumer needs and behaviour.
Impact: The project will directly feed results into development of new products and services for weight loss maintenance. Commercialisation of project results will provide much-needed WLM services that promote health education and long-term weight management programmes.
SATIN (SATiety INnovation) is a 5-year EU FP7 funded project which draws expertise from a consortium of seven academic partners, seven small to medium-sized enterprises, and four industrial partners, all based across the EU. The aim of the SATIN research project is to develop novel ‘satiety enhancing’ food products by means of identifying key ingredients, and processing methods that induce earlier satiation, prolong satiety and suppress appetite, and in the longer term, may influence energy balance, body composition and may aid with weight management.
Our research group will examine the impact of these novel satiety enhancing products on appetite control in a series of acute- and medium-term trials. As part of these trials we will use our multi-level research platform to establish the acute, and enduring actions of the food products on satiation, satiety, and the hedonic control of eating, and examine their potential to aid with exercise-induced weight loss. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. KBBE.2011.2.3-04: Satiety control through food structures made by novel processing. Grant agreement no. 289800.
ALOHA (Effects of almonds on human appetite)
ALOHA is a 3-phase, industry sponsored research project that examines the impact of almond consumption as a snack food on the control of appetite. Almonds are natural snack products that have unique structural properties and composition as they are high in protein and fibre and relatively low in digestible energy.
Previous research has demonstrated that proteins and fibres are food components that have prominent effects on appetite control. As part of this project, our research group will determine the impact of almond consumption on appetite control by incorporating measures of subjective appetite sensations, satiating efficiency (SQ), objectively measured energy intake, pattern of eating (food selection), and food hedonics (liking and wanting for food) in a series of short-term and medium-term studies.
DAPHNE (data-as-a-service platform for healthy lifestyle and preventive medicine)
DAPHNE brings together 10 multidisciplinary academic and industry collaborators from across Europe. Sedentariness is related to many health problems and diseases. The sedentary lifestyle is closely related to the current obesity epidemic, which is a major health problem, with increasing incidence in the younger population. The objective of DAPHNE project is to develop a state-of-the-art breakthrough ICT platform for reducing sedentariness and unhealthy habits, based on data-as-a-service and personalised services, providing the necessary organisational, security and business models for the exploitation of project results.
The DAPHNE platform will deliver personalized guidance services for lifestyle management to the citizen/patient by means of:
- Advanced sensors and mobile phones to acquire and store data on lifestyle aspects, behaviour and surrounding environment
- Individual models to monitor their health and fitness status
- Intelligent data processing for the recognition of behavioural trends
- Specific services for personalized guidance on healthy lifestyle and disease prevention
Our research group is responsible for firstly, developing ‘virtual individual models’ on a portfolio of health markers including physiological, metabolic and psychological aspects of health and wellbeing. During the second phase of the project, the advanced sensors developed within the DAPHNE consortium will be used within our research experiments and combined with our multi-level research platform. From this research, we are particularly interested using state-of-the-art techniques to examine the role of sedentary behaviour in appetite control. Intervention studies will be designed to investigate moving from an inactive lifestyle to an active lifestyle on markers of appetite control.
This research has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 610440.
Full4Health (Understanding food-gut-brain mechanisms across the lifespan in the regulation of hunger and satiety for health)
Full4Health brings together 19 multidisciplinary academic and industry collaborators from across Europe to investigate mechanisms of hunger, satiety and feeding behaviour, and how these change across the life course, effects of dietary components and food structure on these processes, and their possible exploitation in addressing obesity, chronic disease and under-nutrition.
Our research group (ACEB) is responsible for identifying the features of eating behaviour that generate resistance to weight loss in overweight and obese individuals at risk of gaining further weight.
We are using our multi-level research platform to challenge the regulatory system under sedentary (inactive) and activated (exercising) states while monitoring changes in appetite and its relation to weight management. In the Full4Health project we aim to deliver improved understanding of the interaction between exercise, body composition, and energy compensation; the role of hunger and satiety, food hedonics and food choice in food intake; sex differences in appetite and weight management; the role of hormones in the control over food intake. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 266408.
This project combines our research groups expertise in appetite and eating behaviour methodology with a novel drug therapy proposed to have an effect on body weight. A twelve week intervention is being employed, while monitoring changes in body composition, metabolism, peptides, subjective appetite and energy intake.
DIVERSE (Drivers of eating behaviour during chronic overconsumption)
The obesogenic environment ‘offers’ the possibility for people to overeat. People get excessive pleasure from the taste and texture (sensory appeal) of foods and because their body fails to generate stop signals for eating, or because eating food fails to suppress normal hunger and fitness. This over-consumption could occur because of excessive activation of hedonic (pleasure seeking) processes, or because of a defect in homeostatic process. This means that people will eat more because of an elevated ‘liking’ or ‘wanting’ for foods (hedonic process) or because their physiological systems fail to shut off eating quickly (leading to large meals) or because food fails to suppress their hunger after eating. These last two processes are called satiation (termination of eating episodes) and satiety (keeping hunger suppressed between meals).
This three year project investigated homeostatic processes (body composition, metabolism, appetite-related peptides) and hedonic processes (liking, wanting, eating behaviour traits) in response to a ‘safe’ model of overconsumption using a 12 week exercise intervention in overweight and obese individuals.
DIVA (Diet-Induced Variability in Appetite) – It has been suggested that achieving weight loss through traditional daily energy restriction may be problematic due to the reduction in lean mass and subsequent compensatory drive to overeat. Alternate day fasting (ie ad libitum “feed day”, alternated with 25% energy intake “fast day”) has generated interest in recent years as an alternative weight loss strategy for its favourable effects on body composition as it may attenuate the reduction in lean mass and the compensatory drive to overeat seen with traditional energy restriction.
DIVA is a proof of concept RCT investigating the impact of 5% supervised weight loss through standard daily energy restriction or alternate day fasting on homeostatic and hedonic determinants of appetite on overweight and obesity women. By comparing these two contemporary strategies, this project will provide insight into the appetitive processes involved in compensatory adaptations - whether physiological, psychological or behavioural - that occur with diet-induced weight loss.
Facilities and Resources
The School of Psychology has a wide range of specialised facilities and resources available for research projects. Appetite Control and Energy Balance have access to the following facilities within the Human Appetite Research Unit (HARU):
- iDXA for bone mineral density and body composition
- Bodpod for body composition
- Bioelectrical impedance for body composition
- Blood pressure and resting heart rate measurement techniques
- Two clinical kitchens for preparation of test meals
- Nine testing cubicles
- An exercise laboratory with treadmills/exercise bikes/crosstrainers/rowers etc
- Fitness testing equipment – Vmax Encore, Heart rate monitors
- Physical Activity devices – wearable technology to measure physical activity, sedentary behaviour and posture
- Gas Exchange Monitors to measure resting energy expenditure
- Handheld devices to measure subjective appetite ratings – hunger, fullness etc
- Biochemistry room – to enable blood samples to be taken, processed and stored in -80oC freezer. We can measure HBA1c and glucose in-house.
Dr Kristine Beaulieu
Professor John Blundell
Dr Cristiana Duarte
Professor Graham Finlayson
Dr Catherine Gibbons
Professor James Stubbs