Dietary needs and body composition | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Dietary needs and body composition

Energy and nutrient needs, body composition and metabolic adaptations across the physical activity spectrum

This research theme focuses on lifestyle behaviours, specifically dietary intake and physical activity, as modifiable risk factors for chronic disease prevention and management on the one hand and modifiable factors for improved athletic performance or changing life stage on the other hand. Three sub-themes include physique and metabolic research, energy status and health in female athletes, and nutrition in ageing and chronic disease management.

Our physique and metabolic focused research is focused on establishing best practice procedures in data capture, facilitating our ability to determine change in metabolism and physique related to sport and exercise nutrition interventions, plus injury or life stage. This has afforded an opportunity to collaborate with key external groups including the Australian Institute of Sport, plus several national sporting organisations and professional bodies. Key projects include The CHANGE study (Dr Jude Maher, Dr Gary Slater and Dr Libby Swanepoel).

Our laboratory includes state of the art equipment including:

  • DXA; for the measurement of whole body as well as regional body composition and bone health
  • BODPOD; for measurement of body composition
  • Metabolic cart; for the measurement of metabolism, both at rest and during exercise
  • Wearable devices for the monitoring of physical activity and energy expenditure; such as GeneActiv
  • Multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy; for the measurement of total body water
  • Array of surface anthropometry resources such as skinfold calipers and tapes; for the interpretation of disease risk in the field

To read more on this research area please refer to:

Insufficient energy intake is linked to various health and performance consequences. Health consequences include loss of menstrual function, impaired bone strength, growth and development delays in young athletes. Performance consequences could include decreased concentration and coordination, irritability and increased injury risk.

We have investigated this phenomena, referred to as Relative Energy Deficiency (REDS), in school aged and university aged female athletes. Causes for low energy intake are multifactorial in these groups and differences are found between different ethnic groups. There is a call out for intervention studies to help address key issues that may contribute to insufficient energy intake in athletes of all ages and both genders. We are currently undertaking collaborative research in this space with the Australian Institute of Sport and Norwegian Olympic Training Centre.

To read more on this research area please refer to:

  • Whitehead J, Slater G, Wright HH, Martin L, O’Connor H, Mitchell L. Disordered eating behaviors in female physique athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 2019: 1-9.

Ageing is associated with a myriad of physiological changes that can impact an individual’s health and wellbeing. Various sociopsychological factors as well as a lifetime of environmental exposures may put older individuals at an increased risk of chronic disease, malnutrition and/or a reduced functional ability negatively impacting their quality of life. Adequate nutrition can improve health outcomes, support healthy ageing and reduce the burden on the health care system.

Researchers in this area include Drs Anthony Villani and Hattie Wright. Recent publications include (full publication lists available on Research Bank):

  • Bowden, K, Gray NA, Swanepoel E, Wright HH. A Mediterranean lifestyle is associated with favourable cardiometabolic markers in people with non-dialysis dependent chronic kidney disease. Journal of Nutritional Science, 2021, 10(e42):1-8.
  • Ross, E, Wright HH, Villani A. Lower body extremity function is associated with health-related quality of life: a cross-sectional analysis of overweight and obese older adults with and without type 2 diabetes mellitus. Quality of Life Research, 2021. DOI: 1007/s11136-021-02821-5
  • Villani A, McClure R, Barrett M, Scott D. Diagnostic differences and agreement between the original and revised European Working Group (EWGSOP) consensus definition for sarcopenia in community-dwelling older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 2020, 89; doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2020.104081.
  • Barrett M, McClure R, Villani A. Adiposity is inversely associated with strength in older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. European Geriatric Medicine, 2020, 11:451–458.
  • Mantzioris E, Villani A. Translation of a Mediterranean-style diet into the Australian dietary guidelines: a nutritional, ecological and environmental perspective. Nutrients, 2019, 11 (10):
  • Villani A, Wright H, Slater G, Buckley J. A randomized controlled intervention study investigating the efficacy of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables and extra-virgin olive oil on attenuating sarcopenic symptomology in overweight and obese older adults during energy intake restriction: protocol paper. BMC Geriatrics, 2018, 18:2. Open access. DOI 10.1186/s12877-017-0700-4