Gastrointestinal Function and Appetite Regulation

Our aim is to understand the effects of dietary nutrients in the upper gastrointestinal tract and the relationship with appetite regulation.

Excess weight is a major risk factor for a number of diseases, and obesity has significant health, economic and psychosocial implications. Thus, effective strategies to manage, prevent and treat excess weight gain continue to be required urgently. Our research has contributed substantially to current knowledge on how specific dietary nutrients interact with gastrointestinal (GI) functions to regulate appetite and energy intake.

Our research has established: 

  • Key roles for GI motor and hormone functions in energy intake regulation in humans.
  • That very small amounts of specific nutrients (e.g. fatty acids or amino acids) have major appetite-suppressant and glucose regulation effects.
  • That changes in GI function can occur in response to both high-energy diets and dietary restriction—discoveries that have wide-reaching implications for a better understanding of a range of intake-related conditions, such as obesity, indigestion and anorexia nervosa.

Using these exciting research findings, we are increasingly focusing our research on trialing these nutrients in people that are obese or have type 2 diabetes to evaluate the potency of effects to reduce energy intake and/or postprandial blood glucose. We are also investigating whether simultaneous stimulation of different receptors in the gastrointestinal mucosa—by different nutrients—will enhance their combined effect to suppress energy intake and reduce blood glucose. The ultimate goal of our research is to develop novel, nutrient-based therapeutic agents to assist in the management, treatment and prevention of these disorders. 

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