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Improving weight loss outcomes via intermittent very low energy diets


This project aims to determine whether intermittent use of a very low energy diet (VLED) produces greater, more efficient, or longer lasting weight loss than continuous VLED use.


Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

Research location

Camperdown - Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders

Program type



Very low energy diets (VLEDs) are being increasingly used for the treatment of obesity. Modern VLEDs are safe and provide advantages over moderate energy restriction, such as fast and motivating weight loss, reduced hunger, ease of use, as well as cost effectiveness. However, the resultant weight loss is usually transient, partly because energy restriction induces powerful adaptive responses that inhibit weight loss and promote regain.

Evidence suggests that these adaptive responses can be at least partially attenuated by energy balance at the reduced weight. Capitalizing on this finding, we were thrilled to discover that intermittent energy restriction can be used to reduce these adaptive responses and enhance weight loss, in the context of the moderate energy restriction that is usually used for the management of overweight and mild obesity.

However, many clinicians treating obesity and massive obesity are moving away from moderate energy restriction and are instead using VLEDs. Thus, this project aims to determine whether intermittent energy restriction can be used to improve the outcomes of VLEDs.

Given the above, we hypothesise that intermittent VLED will produce greater, more efficient or longer lasting weight or fat loss or metabolic benefits than the conventional approach of continuous VLED, and that this will be related to attenuation of the adaptive responses to energy restriction.

With funding from a Bridging Support Grant from the University of Sydney, this project aims to compare weight loss, fat loss and metabolic health in adults randomised to either an intermittent or a continuous VLED program for 22 weeks, including lifestyle intervention for ongoing weight management for a total of 52 weeks. We will also compare the strength of the adaptive response to weight loss - appetite and gut hormones, metabolic rate and neuroendocrine changes.

As part of an internationally recognised and multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, this project has the potential to deliver a more effective obesity treatment for immediate use, as well as the necessary insights to further improve the approach.

Additional information

Benefits to the successful candidate
• As part of The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the Charles Perkins Centre, you will be part of an internationally recognized multidisciplinary research environment dedicated to reducing obesity and associated complications
• PhD candidates will be mentored for submission of a competitive application for an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students). Further details
• Opportunity for a Top-Up Scholarship for APA or UPA-funded PhD students of high standing, with the possibility of Top-Up Scholarship extension for students who are productive in publishing their research on this topic
• You will receive mentoring to help you develop your career, with individual and group training on scientific writing, conference presentation skills etc
• You will have opportunities to present your research findings at local, national and potentially also at an international biomedical conference
• You will have opportunities to publish your research findings in world-class peer-reviewed biomedical journals of high standing

Selection criteria
• An undergraduate degree in science, medicine or other health discipline (e.g. exercise physiology, nutrition & dietetics, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology, biochemistry, physiology etc.)
• First class honours or equivalent (for PhD candidates)
• An excellent undergraduate academic record (for Masters and PhD candidates)
• Prospective PhD candidates must be eligible for a nationally competitive PhD scholarship, such as an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students) or an equivalent award for international students. Further details.
• A strong commitment to health and medical research in the field of adult nutrition and lifestyle interventions, obesity, weight management and chronic disease prevention
• Exceptional communication skills that will enable you to engender support from participants volunteering for this randomised controlled trial
• Ability to work productively both within a team environment as well as independently as required
• Excellent organisational skills
• Reliability and punctuality

For further information
Please contact Associate Professor Amanda Salis

To apply

Please e-mail a cover letter addressing the above selection criteria, a copy of your CV as well as your academic transcript(s) to Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 136

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