In humans, energy balance is primarily regulated by body composition, muscle tissue and energy expenditure at rest and during daily activities. Specifically, the drive to eat is controlled by energy expenditure, satiety and hunger signalling, allowing the human body to balance its energy needs, particularly at times of energy restraint or excessive energy expenditure (Blundell et al., 2017).
However, in Western societies, body image issues and weight loss pre-occupation have led to a high prevalence of chronic dieting, cognitive energy restraint (CER) and habitual low energy intake and a mismatch between physiological needs, hunger and satiety signals, significantly affecting weight regulation, obesity and its comorbidities (Fagerberg et al., 2018, Areta et al., 2021, Mountjoy et al., 2018).
Chronic dieting and CER appear to be more prevalent in females, with adverse metabolic and hormonal effects leading to menstrual disturbances and osteoporosis (Lowe and Levine, 2005; Polivy and Herman, 2017; Van Loan and Keim, 2000). Moreover, CER increases the risk for clinical eating disorders, body dysmorphia and compulsive exercise, significantly affecting mental health and well-being (Poppis, 2018; Watson and Le Pelley, 2021).
The purpose of this project is to investigate a) the effects of chronic dieting and CER on energy balance regulation, the drive to eat and physical and mental health, b) the effects of a nutritional intervention with and without a behaviour change program on the aforementioned parameters. The impact goal of this studentship is to provide opportunities for a student to network, train and experience research, and develop intellectually a new, original research area with significant impact on human health and wellbeing.
A mixed-methods quantitative and qualitative design will be used through a series of original, novel research studies on normal weight, overweight and obese female and male chronic dieters.
This project will comprise:
A. An acute observation study which will assess the effects of chronic dieting on the following parameters: body composition, metabolic biomarkers, stress and appetite-regulating hormones, eating behaviour and mental health.
- B. An intervention study which will investigate and compare the effects of three, 12-week interventions: a) an eating behaviour change program (EB), b) a progressive, energy surplus dietary intervention to establish energy balance (DI) and c) a combination of EB and DI on body composition, energy expenditure and metabolic, hormonal biomarkers.