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Eating Behaviour, Physical Activity & Energy Balance

Our researchers study the psychological, physiological, and environmental factors that influence our appetite (otherwise termed eating behaviours) and weight. Our research also investigates the impact of physical activity and sedentariness on appetite control and the appetite response, and examine the impact of foods on appetite control under varying levels of sedentariness and activity and effective strategies for weight management.

Further information about specific areas of expertise within the theme of Eating Behaviour, Physical activity and Enery Balance is detailed below, as well as a full list of current projects our researchers are involved in.

Appetite Control & Energy Balance

Energy balance behaviours refer to the actions and behaviours individuals make to achieve and maintain a balance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Our research investigates the role of energy balance behaviours on appetite control and weight. Our research utilises experimental designs to investigate the impact of physical activity and sedentariness on appetite control and the appetite response, and examine the impact of foods on appetite control under varying levels of sedentariness and activity.

Food Choice and Hedonics

We eat to live but food is also an important source of pleasure contributing to human psychological wellbeing. Not all individuals have the same attraction to food or are responsive to drivers to consume them. For some people their enjoyment of eating food and their motivation to consume foods frequently and in large quantities may put them at risk of developing overweight or obesity. Our research investigates the drivers to eat and the factors influencing food choice.

Weight Management

With the rise in weight gain and obesity, strategies to manage body weight have become increasingly common. Weight management is a multi-faceted construct which includes efforts for weight loss, weight maintenance and prevention of weight regain. Our research focusses on identifying the most effective weight management strategies including investigating the effects of certain food characteristics on satiety.

Food Environment

The environment is filled with many opportunities and few barriers to consume food. There is also disproportionate access and availability of ‘energy-dense’ foods, that tend to be high in fat, salt and sugar and these food are often aggressively marketed to the public. Our research examines the role of the obesogenic food environment on appetite, food choice and weight, and also explores socioeconomic differences in the food environment.

Food insecurity

Food insecurity refers to the ‘inability to obtain adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so’. Rates of food insecurity have dramatically increased in the UK in recent years. Our research seeks to investigate the seeming paradoxical relationship between food insecurity and obesity.

Consumer behaviour and policy

In collaboration with researcher from the Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team, led by Professor Michelle Morris, our researchers contribute to projects utilising customer data from shopping transactions and loyalty cards to test interventions aimed at promoting healthy and sustainable diets. Interventions involve in-store and online behaviour change trials to modify supermarket shopping environments, including experimenting with signposting, product placement and incentivisation. These projects aim to deliver evidence-based research on how best to encourage both healthy and sustainable consumer behaviours.

Current projects

Our researchers have expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods including experimental, randomised controlled trials, cross-sectional and prospective studies. Current projects include:

SWEET project

SWEET, a European Commission Horizon 2020 funded project, is supported by a consortium of 29 pan-European research, consumer and industry partners, who are developing and reviewing evidence on long term benefits and potential risks involved in switching over to sweeteners and sweetness enhancers in the context of public health and safety, obesity, and sustainability.


This project maps the satiety value of 312 representative foods commonly available to UK consumers, using a structured, stratified sample of foods. We have begun to build predictive models which combine participant-level and food level analysis (nutritional composition, physical and sensory attributes of foods) using multi-level models to predict perceived satiety and food reward (e.g. liking, wanting, and hedonic overconsumption).


The NoHoW project tests whether digital-based delivery of the most promising evidence based behavior change techniques is effective for weight loss maintenance. We will carry out a large-scale international 3-centre trial of information technology tools that implement the most up-to-date behavioural science research. This trial will establish the effectiveness of these ICT tools in supporting weight loss maintenance, linked to studies of European consumer needs and behaviour.


This four year project brings together collaborators across four universities: York, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Demand for food is ever-increasing. The IKnowFood project aims to develop practical tools to enable farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to withstand shocks to the UK food system. At the University of Leeds we are investigating consumer beliefs, values and inequalities, particularly why population groups make different food choices.

Healthy and Sustainable Diets

Working with supermarkets to understand the impact of product placement on purchases of healthy and sustainable diets. This work is part of a wider partnership with the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD).

Diet and Health Inequalities (DIO Food)

The DIO Food project aims to identify how we can provide timely evidence-based research and commentary from those facing diet and health inequalities. The main focus of the project is working with vulnerable groups (early years and people with low income) to tackle the cost of living crisis to give timely policy directives. This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

SWITCH trial

The effectS of non-nutritive sWeetened beverages on appetITe during aCtive weigHt loss (SWITCH) trial was conceived and designed in the context of the need to reduce sugar in the diet and to address questions about the potential effects of using sweeteners as a substitute on appetite regulation. The SWITCH trail aims to determine the impact of NNS beverages as compared to water on weight loss and weight loss maintenance, appetite, energy intake, exercise and mood across a period of weight-loss and weight-maintenance.

TIMEX project

The TIming of Meal and EXercise in obesity and type 2 diabetes (TIMEX) study is a collaboration between researchers from Clinical Prevention Research at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and the University of Leeds. The project aims to understand the role of meal and exercise timing and appetite control in obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Preload Study Project

An experimental study designed to objectively measure satiety in a sub-sample of foods that are representative of the nutritional properties of food clusters in the UK diet using gold standard laboratory measures.

APPETiTE Project

In this 3-year project, we are working with researchers at Aston University, Loughbourough, UCL and Kings College London to examine feeding and eating behaviours of preschoolers with avid appetites and to understand children’s differential susceptibility to obesogenic environments and to inform future intervention efficacy. This large, collaborative project aims to help support parents whose children are very focused on and motivated by food. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Gemini study

Gemini is a large population-based study of 2402 families with twins born in England and Wales in 2007. Gemini aims to advance understanding of the genetic and environmental influences on obesity risk and to identify potentially modifiable determinants of excessive weight gain.

EASO Physical Fitness, Activity and Function Working Group

The Physical Fitness, Activity and Function working groups forms a network of European and international experts working in Physical Fitness, Activity and Function. The group offers expert opinion, provide a platform for discussion and learning related to physical health and behaviour in obesity research and practice. The group also aim to improve training and education of health professionals by developing resources and tools that can be used to assess, treat and promote physical fitness, activity and function.