Personalising weight loss

Professor Andrew Hills from the Griffith Health Institute
Professor Andrew Hills from the Griffith Health Institute

A personalised weight loss ‘prescription’ to help overweight and obese people understand their ‘energy gap’.

This should be the long-term goal of both developed and developing societies struggling with the alarming increase in obesity, a leading Queensland researcher says.

Speaking at the Gold Coast Health and Medical Research Conference 2012 this week, Professor Andrew Hills from the Griffith Health Institute says he is exploring the size of the ‘energy gap’ between normal weight and obesity. The energy gap is the ‘mismatch’ between the energy required to maintain a healthy weight and the amount of excess energy that leads to weight gain.

“We know that overweight people are not in energy balance; they are eating more than they need for the amount of energy that they’re using with many not expending as much energy as they believe they are alternatively, overcompensating with too much food or not enough exercise,” says Professor Hills.

“It can be very difficult for people to manage their weight over time and the factors involved can be different for everyone.”

Finding the energy balance

“If people can be helped to become more aware of how their food intake and energy expenditure can be balanced then they may be less likely to make poor nutrition decisions.”

“Too often, we are providing people with generic rules such as the Government’s ’30 minutes a day’ structured physical activity advice. This is fine as a starting point but we should be able to help people improve their body composition using optimal diet and exercise approaches which have been derived from meaningful data.”

“Unfortunately there is no immediate quick fix and the factors involved in obesity remain very complex, however governments, education and health professions need to be better educated on how to advise people about the issues.”

“If we can give individuals specific advice which is tailored to their particular needs then this would prove a much more effective way of looking at the issues.”