Q&A with FENS 2019 plenary speaker, Professor Arne Astrup

Professor Arne Astrup

Professor Arne Astrup, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, will be one of our plenary speakers at the 13th European Nutrition Conference (FENS 2019). Professor Astrup will be speaking on day two of the conference, 16 October, on ‘Personalised dietary management of obesity based on biomarkers of glucose metabolism and microbiota.’ We caught up with Professor Astrup to find out more about his research, extensive experience in the field, and plenary lecture topic.

1. Having started out as a medical doctor, what first attracted you to the study of nutritional science? 

I started doing physiology on human energy metabolism looking for thermogenesis in brown fat and skeletal muscle, working with adipose tissue metabolism. I first had a clinical career in endocrinology and metabolism, and obesity and diabetes attracted my attention from an early stage. I was challenged by the difficulties people with obesity have when attempting to lose weight.

2. With over 30 years of clinical research experience, how have you seen discourse around the aetiology and treatment of obesity change and develop over time?

There has fortunately been more recognition that obesity is not caused by lack of willpower and laziness, and that complex biological factors are involved.

3. Why do you think it is important to consider malnutrition in an obese world?

Well, it seems to be a paradox that you can be overfed but malnourished, but actually this can often be the case.

4. Your research often touches on issues of satiety and diet palatability. Why do you think these aspects of eating behaviour are important in the context of malnutrition and obesity?

Both satiety and palatability are important determinants (drivers) of food and calorie intake, and I therefore find it important to understand the mechanisms that mediate this e.g. satiety, and how these can be modulated by diet composition and taking hedonic aspects into consideration.

5. Your work has examined a wide range of different mechanisms and methods for attaining energy balance, including physical activity, the impact of different macronutrients on weight loss, and dietary patterns such has the Nordic Diet. In your opinion, is a targeted or a systems’ approach more impactful in interventions to prevent malnutrition?

I think we need to understand the biology/physiology better before we can tailor-make diets to manage the problems. Our discovery that glucose metabolism and gut microbiota play an important role in specific diets that promote weight loss and improve glucose regulation, is an important step in that direction.