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Does fast weight loss influence cognitive function in obese adults?


This project aims to determine the impact of increasingly popular yet severely energy-restricted diets on cognitive function in obese adults.


Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

Research location

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

Program type



For many years health professionals have recommended ‘slow and steady' weight loss. Recently however an increasing number of health professionals have begun prescribing severely restrictive very low energy diets (VLEDs) for the management of excess body weight. VLEDs can induce fast weight losses of approximately 0.5 to 2 kilos per week, which some people find motivating. Moreover, some people report not feeling hungry while on a VLED.

While VLEDs clearly improve metabolic health in people who are obese, little is known about their potential psychological effects. Of interest is the fact that severe energy restriction is known to affect circulating concentrations of gut-derived hormones that regulate appetite. These hormonal changes act in the brain to suppress appetite while patients are adhering to the diet, but result in rebound increases in appetite upon reinstatement of normal eating patterns.

Besides effects on hunger, new research suggests that these appetite-regulating hormones may also have significant effects on cognitive function. We thus hypothesise that VLEDs could potentially have profound effects on cognitive function of relevance to long-term health.

With funding from a project grant from the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), this project will demonstrate whether or not there are any differences between VLED and a less restrictive weight reducing diet with respect to effects on cognitive function. Drawing on state-of-the art neuropsychological assessments and a multidisciplinary research team, the results from this study will have important implications for the clinical management of obesity and the prevention of cognitive decline in older age.

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, for domestic students). Further details
• Opportunity for a Top-Up Scholarship for APA or UPA-funded 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 211

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