Appetite, Metabolism, and Obesity

More than 60 percent of the population is overweight and 25 percent are clinically obese. Over $35 billion is spent annually on diet foods, aids, and programs. The health care costs associated with overweight/obesity are estimated at over $100 billion annually due to the contribution of excess body fat to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and osteoarthritis. There are approximately 280,000 preventable deaths from obesity annually, and the toll on productivity and quality of life are high.

Dietary approaches to prevent and manage body weight have been largely unsuccessful, in large part because they have failed to address issues associated with hunger and satiety that compromise diet compliance. The importance of exercise in weight management and health optimization has only recently gained attention and remains poorly characterized. The most critical deficiency in knowledge and practice is how appetite and exercise interact to influence food choice, metabolism, and energy balance. Researchers in the Department of Nutrition Science, in collaboration with colleagues on campus and at other institutions, conduct cutting-edge research in this area and support the training of preeminent researchers and practitioners to meet the health care needs of the community, state, and region.

Contributors in the Department

Engagement

The department and Purdue Extension have been part of th INShape Indiana Governor's Health Summits held annually since 2005.  Over 50 Indiana counties now have health coalitions with Purdue Extension playing a variety of roles.  In addition, distance learning via Adobe Connect has been utilized to inform Extension professionals across the state of recent research related to energy density in beverages and solids.

The biannual Ingestive Behavior Research Center (IBRC) Symposium serves as an engagement event with a limited audience as a means to facilitate candid discourse among the invited participants. 

SpringFest at Purdue is an opportunity to showcase the department's Signature Areas to children and their parents. Nutrition Science students volunteer their time to run the kids' activity stations, including the milk bottle ring toss and milk mustache pictures, as well as the body fat estimation station for the parents. Several of the learning activities, such as NUTR 41500: Practicum in Nutrition, Fitness and Health also involve engagement activities with the community residents as 'clients.'

Learning

Issues and concepts of research relevant to this signature area permeate the curriculum and learning efforts.  For example, in the undergraduate introductory nutrition course, components of energy expenditure and energy intake are covered, as are some aspects of eating behavior such as the positive relationship between palatability and energy intake of different foods and the ease at which foods can be consumed without people being aware of it.  Lectures in several undergraduate courses include the role of appetite hormones in the control of food intake, the effects of food form and meal pattern on intake.  Another example is the NUTR 41500 practicum course for students majoring in Nutrition, Fitness, and Health (NFH). In this course, senior-level students apply the theories, knowledge, and skills that they've gained throughout the NFH major with real clients recruited from the Purdue community.  

The Department participates in the core graduate course in the area of metabolism and energy related topics.  The Department teaches an upper level graduate course entitled "Obesity: Physiology, Behavior and Policy."  The goal of the course is to introduce students to the broad issues in obesity from molecular to public policy and is intended to be highly interactive to promote critical thinking skills.  The Nutrition Science faculty are also leaders in teaching a graduate level course on Special Topics in Ingestive Behavior.

An area of concentration is established for training of pre-doctoral students in ingestive behavior.  One especially innovative and effective course is the Special Topics in Ingestive Behavior Seminar.  This course entails identifying a new topical issue each time and inviting fours scholars to campus over the semester at monthly intervals.  Prior to each visitor's arrival, the faculty conduct seminars with the students enrolled in the course where papers from a reading list provided by the visiting scholar are critically reviewed.  Thus, by the time the scholar arrives, the students are well versed with their work. The visitor also presents a lecture the to general University Community during their 2-3 day visit. 

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