Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation




Are Your Chocolate Cravings Making You Unproductive?

Flinders Leads International Trial for New Obesity and Diabetes Treatment

Mazda Helps Drive Parenting Program To Tackle Childhood Obesity

Driving The Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Reducing Health Risks Linked To Obesity



Are Your Chocolate Cravings Making You Unproductive?
First Published: ENews - April 2011

If you find it hard to concentrate without an afternoon snack, new Flinders University research has shown your craving for chocolate or other foods may indeed be sapping your brain power!

The findings by Associate Professor Eva Kemps and Professor Marika Tiggemann from the Flinders University School of Psychology may also point the way to how to deal with those cravings, which can pose significant health risks for some people by contributing to obesity or eating disorders such as bulimia. In addition, giving in to food cravings can elicit feelings of guilt or shame.

Research has found that when people crave a particular food, they visualise it. The strength of the craving is related to the vividness of the mental image of the food desired.

A study by Assoc Prof Kemps and Prof Tiggemann has shown that when subjects are imagining something, this visualisation takes up cognitive resources.

Participants in the study were asked to complete a series of cognitive tests while an unwrapped chocolate bar was nearby. A control group was not given the chocolate temptation.

The group who had the chocolate temptation nearby were found to perform simple maths problems more slowly and were able to remember less in memory tests than those without the cravings.

"Even small reductions in cognitive resources have the potential to compromise optimal task performance in many everyday situations,thereby reducing work efficiency or increasing the likelihood of accidents," Dr Kemps said.

"For example… reaction-time is vital in vigilance tasks such as inspecting items on an industrial production line or manoeuvring through dense traffic, whereas working-memory capacity is involved in a wide range of complex skills such as language comprehension, note taking, and following directions."

The study also found that by asking participants who had a food craving to picture a specific object or smell in their mind, such as a rainbow or the smell of eucalyptus, or by watching a flickering pattern on a monitor, they were able to reduce the intensity of the craving.

"Engaging in a simple visual task seems to hold real promise as a method for curbing food cravings," Dr Kemps said.

The researchers said these cognitive distractions might also be useful when treating people for alcohol and drug cravings or other addictions.


Flinders Leads International Trial for New Obesity and Diabetes Treatment
First Published: Enews - June 2010

A new bariatric surgery technique, developed by an international collaboration featuring Flinders University surgeons, is showing promise in the treatment of not only obesity but also Type II diabetes and hypertension.

Unlike traditional bariatric procedures which involve restricting or rerouting food or removing part of the stomach, in this new procedure two electrodes are implanted through keyhole surgery and attached to the vagus nerves at the entrance to the stomach.

A device similar to a pacemaker is then implanted just under the skin which sends electrical pulses to block the vagus nerves, which results in the patient feeling fuller and less hungry.

A Flinders team led by Professor Jim Toouli, Professor of Surgery at Flinders University, was second in the world to perform this procedure in 2006 (beaten only by a Mexican team who started earlier because of the time difference).

After successful trials in three centres around the world, the device was found to successfully aid weight loss and specialists also noted it appeared to control type II diabetes and high blood pressure quicker than other forms of bariatric surgery.

Type II diabetes is characterised by high blood glucose levels and is linked to obesity through the accumulation of fat in the liver which can cause insulin resistance.

A second international trial focussed on the implications of the procedure for 30 type II diabetes patients has recently concluded. Flinders was the largest of four trial centres, performing the procedure on 10 patients.

Professor Toouli said the trial has "shown great results" and the procedure could be a significant alternative in the treatment of type II diabetes and high blood pressure if diet and exercise fail to manage the condition.

"Because the procedure is minimally invasive, it could also be used to treat type II diabetes sufferers who are not as obese who would not normally be considering having a major operation."

However, the researchers are yet to determine why the device is more effective in controlling the conditions than traditional weight loss surgeries.

"We believe blocking the nerves could cause hormonal and neurotransmitter changes which may cause this result," Professor Toouli said. "It is now the subject of further laboratory research here at Flinders to better understand how that works."


Mazda Helps Drive Parenting Program To Tackle Childhood Obesity
First Published: Investigator - October 2008


With childhood obesity rates on the rise, the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation successfully sought a $95,771 grant from the Mazda Foundation to see the Parenting, Eating and Activities for Child Health (PEACHTM) program made more widely available to families with overweight children.


PEACH was designed to help parents of overweight and obese children make healthy lifestyle changes by giving them the tools and support they need to make a long-term difference.


In 2002 the program was tested in one of Australia’s largest trials to determine the best way to treat childhood obesity.


Outcomes from the trial showed that a whole of family approach with parents driving lifestyle changes is the most effective and accepted strategy to help children lose weight.


“PEACH started in response to research that showed the number of overweight children had increased dramatically over the past 20 years,” said Dr Anthea Magarey, Senior Lecturer from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Flinders University.


“Through trialling the program we discovered that it is imperative that community focused research and support occurs earlier rather than later if we are to have any chance of making long-term changes.”


PEACH will be held in a community group setting to teach parents how to deal with childhood obesity through a range of avenues, including how to increase activity and make lifestyle changes and introduce and maintain a healthy diet.


In the future it is expected that PEACH facilitators will also engage GPs, helping them to better identify overweight and obese children and give them a support program to refer families.


With the funds donated by the Mazda Foundation, Dr Magarey and her team have been able to start training more facilitators to expand the program further throughout South Australia.


Training is currently underway and Dr Magarey expects the first PEACH group to be held in early November 2008.


Driving The Fight Against Childhood Obesity
First Published: Investigator - September 2008


A weight management program is helping families battle the bulging waistlines of South Australia’s five to nine year old children.


The PEACH (Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health) program provides parents with the tools and support they need to create healthy diet and lifestyle changes. Group sessions with other parents are also offered as part of the program.


The program is led by Dr Anthea Magarey from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Flinders University.


‘In Australia at least 20 percent of boys and girls aged between 2-17 years are obese,’ Anthea said. ‘Many parents see this as ‘puppy fat’, however a large number of children are not losing the excess weight as they grow older.’


‘Our program teaches parents how to learn strategies to introduce and maintain healthy diet and lifestyle changes in the family unit.’


The State Government has provided $200,000 over 2.5 years for the PEACH program. The Mazda Foundation has also donated $95,000 to make the program more widely available to families of overweight children.


The program aims to reach more than 1,000 parents of overweight children. For more information about PEACH call (08) 8204 6303.


Reducing Health Risks Linked To Obesity
First Published: Investigator - July 2006


Reducing the risk of heart attacks and other obesity related illnesses is of prime concern for a group of researchers at Flinders Medical Centre.


Prof Campbell Thompson and Dr Arduino Mangoni are attempting to understand the changes that take place within blood vessels during and after the weight loss that is associated with gastric banding surgery.


Gastric banding is a non-invasive surgery where an inflatable silicone band is implanted into the patient’s abdomen and fastened around the upper stomach. This limits the amount of food the patient can eat and creates a sense of fullness earlier, thereby encouraging weight loss.


Investigators have found that when weight is lost other health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and the risk of heart attack or disease is reduced. It is believed that this is linked to the reduction of “bad” visceral fat within the body which sits around the abdomen and intestinal areas and appears to be the main cause of other weight related health problems. Subcutaneous fat, which sits around the thighs and buttocks, is considered harmless.


Rapid weight loss on the other hand seems to cause harmful compounds, also known as fatty acids, to be released from the visceral fat into the circulation. The Flinders team are focusing on the effects that these compounds have on blood vessels. Fatty acids appear to cause blood vessels to become stiffer and lose their ability to modulate the flow of blood and oxygen through the body at an optimal level. This can potentially lead to many health problems such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks.


The study aims at producing important information that will contribute to the treatment of obesity, particularly gastric banding surgery.


Currently within Australia over two thirds of adults and one third of children fall within the overweight/obese body mass index (BMI) brackets. BMI is a calculation of height in relation to weight to determine whether the subject is in a suitable weight zone for their height.


Those with a BMI of over 30 with another complication such as diabetes or anyone with a BMI of over 35 are eligible for gastric banding surgery.


“As obesity continues to rise worldwide, this information is of critical importance to create awareness and promote healthier lifestyles for those with an inclination to obesity,” says Professor Thompson.


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