Energy intake, health outcomes and expenditure

| July 22, 2016

According to the OECD, two in three Australian adults are either overweight or obese. Terenzio Gaetan asks you to take part in a study that looks at how food consumption, physical activity and compensatory beliefs are intertwined within our minds.

Currently the prevalence of obesity in the general population increases steadily. Such a trend can be exemplified globally, whereby over a 35 year period the prevalence of people being overweight and obese has nearly doubled.

However, we need to consider which countries have been chief contributors towards such a statistic. One such country is Australia – it ranks fifth according to the OECD in percentage of the adult population being obese. Specifically, it has been reported that two in three Australian adults are either overweight or obese. The significance of having a majority of Australian adults being classed as either overweight or obese is their elevated risk for developing comorbid conditions. Such notable conditions include non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnoea and the potential development for cancers.

When the development of any such co-morbid condition occurs, a course of treatment predictably follows in an attempt to improve diminished health outcomes associated with obesity. But depending on the severity and multitudes of co-morbid conditions, the duration that treatment is required for can vary.

In particular with respect to treatment duration, we need to consider an ever increasing life expectancy translating into a prolonged reliance on treatment and thus the potential for an increased societal burden amongst future populations.

We do know that eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight all reduce one’s risk for obesity and lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Balancing energy intake and expenditure are important goals in weight management and weight loss interventions, and although diet and physical activity are the basis of the energy balance equation, they are directly and indirectly impacted by a complex variety of environmental, social, genetic, psychological and physiological factors.

It is therefore important to identify modifiable psychological factors that have long term implications for the incidence of obesity in order to guide the development of successful obesity prevention intervention and policies.

One under-researched psychological contributor to weight gain is compensatory beliefs: the proposition that a healthy behaviour, such as exercise, may counteract the negative effects of an unhealthy behaviour. Most people likely hold compensatory beliefs about weight, food consumption and physical activity behaviour.

Given the increasing demand to find successful ways to improve these health behaviours, a current project in the School of Health Sciences at Flinders University aims to establish how food consumption, physical activity and compensatory beliefs are intertwined within the minds of Australian adults and whether the concepts of mindfulness or mindful eating may impact upon these relationships.

We are inviting people over the age of eighteen to participate in a once off online questionnaire, taking approximately 20 to 30 minutes of your time. The questionnaire involves answering questions relating to eating and exercise behaviours, but also health beliefs. The intended use of the results is for my Honours thesis. Any information provided will be treated in the strictest confidence and none of the participants will be individually identifiable in the resulting thesis, report or other publications. Thank you for helping the research into exercise, nutrition and wellbeing!

Terenzio Gaetan
Terenzio Gaetan is currently studying Honours in Health Science at Flinders University, Adelaide. He is interested in the field of eating behaviour and nutrition education and specifically, in his future research, investigate programs and interventions that promote healthy behaviours helping people achieve their health goals.

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