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Reversing the human Famine Reaction via diet and high intensity exercise


This project aims to determine whether a higher protein and lower glycaemic index weight maintenance diet, combined with high intensity physical activity, can attenuate the strength of the Famine Reaction that occurs in response to a 2-month weight reducing diet in overweight or obese adults at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, thereby reducing the propensity for weight regain.


Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

Research location

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

Program type



Research shows that weight loss by lifestyle intervention is almost twice as effective as anti-diabetic drugs (metformin) for preventing the progression to overt diabetes in overweight or obese people. While weight loss therefore offers a simple and powerful strategy for preventing type 2-diabetes, a major challenge is that most people who lose weight by lifestyle intervention do not keep the weight off.
One of the major reasons for weight regain after lifestyle interventions is that the body responds to energy restriction and weight loss with a series of adaptive responses that prevent ongoing weight loss and promote weight regain. This series of adaptive responses – referred to herein as the Famine Reaction – includes increased appetite, reduced energy expenditure, and alternations in circulating concentrations of hormones that tend to stimulate appetite and promote fat accumulation. Finding ways to reduce the intensity of this famine reaction would likely enable more people to keep weight off following lifestyle interventions, thereby providing better prevention of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Exciting new research shows that a diet that is higher in protein and lower in glycaemic index than the diet that is conventionally recommended for health may help people to maintain a lower body weight post weight loss, and that this benefit may occur by reducing the intensity of the Famine Reaction. Additional research in animals also shows that high intensity exercise post weight loss may help to attenuate the Famine Reaction.These findings raise the exciting possibility that a higher protein and lower glycaemic index weight maintenance diet could be used, in conjunction with high intensity exercise, to reduce the intensity of the Famine Reaction in overweight or obese people after completion of weight loss diets, thereby improving their likelihood of keeping the weight off and benefiting from long-term reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disease. This possibility will be directly tested in this project.

Drawing on cutting-edge physiological assessments, the results from this study will have important implications for the clinical management of obesity and the prevention of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

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
• You will be mentored for submission of a competitive application for an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA). Further details
• 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 to Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1716

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