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Human Energy Balance (HEB) Core

Core Director 

Joseph Donnelly portraitJoseph E. Donnelly Jr, Ed.D.
Professor, Division of Physical Activity & Weight Management, Department of Internal Medicine

About the Core 

Energy balance, the difference between the rates of energy intake and energy expenditure (physical activity + resting metabolic rate) is a fundamental construct associated with changes in body weight. A negative energy balance, i.e. energy expenditure > energy intake is required to reduce body weight and can be achieved by reduced energy intake, increased energy expenditure, or both. However, the central (brain) and peripheral (GI tract, pancreas, liver, etc.) homeostatic processes and the environmental (availability of energy-dense foods, sedentary jobs, etc.) and behavioral factors (diet, exercise) that interact to influence energy intake and expenditure resulting in changes in energy balance and body weight are highly complex and not well understood.

The goal of this project is to create a Human Energy Balance (HEB) core, which integrates facilities, equipment and expertise currently on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus and makes them available in a core form to support investigators who wish to perform human subject-based research and training on the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity. This HEB core is an integral part of the Kansas Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research (KC-MORE). It is made up of three divisions.

Our Divisions

Directed by Dr. John Jakicic with Dr. Richard Washburn (Advisor), this division provides a centralized location to conduct interventions to evaluate the impact of exercise for the prevention and treatment of obesity in both laboratory and community settings. Assessments include both laboratory-based and portable indirect calorimetry, stable isotopes and whole-room indirect calorimetry. Additional assessments include daily physical activity (portable accelerometer), body weight (calibrated scales) and body composition (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, air displacement plethysmography). This division also provides the capability to: 

  • deliver and document laboratory-based exercise dosed at specific levels of intensity and energy expenditure,  
  • deliver and monitor both weight management and exercise inventions remotely to groups of participants in their homes 
  • conduct school-based interventions for the prevention of overweight and obesity. 

Directed by Dr. Debra Sullivan, this division provides the ability to obtain assessments of energy, macronutrient and micronutrient intake using a variety of techniques depending on investigator requirements including direct observation, weighted and digital image plate waste, and self-reports.  

This division also has the capacity to prepare and serve meals of specific energy and macronutrient intake for controlled feeding trials, analyze biomarkers that are indicators of compliance with diet recommendations or nutrient absorption and analyze the gut microbiome which may play a role in energy balance.

Directed by Dr. Steve Herrmann with Dr. Lauren Ptomey (Advisor), this division provides training, a venue for pilot research projects and a mechanism for the delivery of evidence-based weight management interventions developed by KC-MORE and other investigators. In addition to opportunities for training in clinical weight management, this division maintains a registry of data and contact information on over 3,000 previous and current participants and is associated with a new NIH-supported International Weight Control Registry (P30 DK056336-19S2), which is available for pilot and/or full-scale investigations.  

This division also has the ability to include cost analysis services and magnetic resonance imaging, which allows investigators to integrate structural, functional and metabolic approaches to the central nervous system in the study of obesity. 

Our Specific Aims 

The establishment of the HEB core centralizes — for the first time on the KU Medical Center campus — the facilities, equipment, expertise and training opportunities to study energy balance, weight loss and maintenance in humans. We will achieve this goal with the following specific aims: 

  1. To develop an Energy Expenditure/Exercise Physiology Division to allow researchers to study metabolic effects of exercise on energy expenditure and body composition. 
  2. To develop an Energy Intake Division to allow the measurement and control of nutrition and energy intake in research participants. 
  3. To develop a Clinical Weight Management Division to support researchers studying novel approaches to achieve weight loss and maintenance. 
Kansas Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research COBRE

Kansas Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research
University of Kansas Medical Center
Mail Stop 1018
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160