Arne Astrup on Appetite Regulation and Satiety

Interview From the Special Topic of Obesity, July 2010

Arne Vernon AstrupAccording to our Special Topics analysis of obesity research over the past decade, the work of Professor Arne Vernon Astrup ranks at #5 by total papers, based on 137 papers cited a total of 4,013 times. In our 2001 analysis of obesity, Astrup's work ranked at #7 by total papers, based on 75 papers cited 837 times.

In Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Reuters, his record includes 164 papers, classified under Clinical Medicine, Biology & Biochemistry, and Agricultural Sciences, cited a total of 4,264 times between January 1, 2000 and February 28, 2010.

Astrup is the Head of the Department of Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He is also the Chairman of the International Association for the Study of Obesity and the Editor-in-Chief of Obesity Reviews. talks with him about his highly cited obesity research.

SW: Would you tell us a bit about your educational background and research experiences? 

I was born in 1955 in Frederiksberg Denmark, and graduated from the Medical School at the University of Copenhagen in 1981 (M.D.). During my studies I stayed for a year at the Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, US.

I started doing research at the department of physiology at University of Copenhagen, and defended my doctoral thesis in 1986 on "Thermogenesis in human brown fat and skeletal muscle"—so I started from the very beginning to work on research in adipose tissue and energy expenditure.

I subsequently did 10 years' clinical work at university hospitals in Copenhagen and was specializing in internal medicine, but never finished, as I was more or less headhunted to become professor of nutrition and head of the department in 1990 at 34 years old. I have had that position now for 20 years, and the department has expanded from 15 to 150 in staff.

Arne Vernon Astrup
Arne Vernon Astrup's research group. View larger image in the tab below.

My research group undertakes basic, physiological, and clinical research in appetite and energy metabolism, with an aim to improving the prevention and treatment of obesity and related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Our group covers such topics as:

  • Genetic, physiological, behavioral, psychological, and environmental factors that influence energy balance and promote obesity, with particular focus on diet composition.
  • Physiological determinants of appetite regulation and energy metabolism.
  • Signal hormonal molecules for appetite, and mediators of obesity-associated complications and risks.
  • Nutritional factors and bio-active food components effects on energy balance (e.g. calcium, flaxseed fiber, fatty acids, and spices).
  • The effect of physical activity on appetite regulation and energy balance.
  • Non-nutritional factors’ influence on components of energy balance (e.g. the effect of impaired sleep on appetite and spontaneous physical activity, and the impact of gut microbiota on energy balance).
  • Effects of weight loss and the maintenance of a reduced body weight on diseases related to obesity, particularly risk markers of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (e.g. blood lipids, blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity).
  • Development of improved programs of prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity using changes in diet, sensory factors, dietary supplementation, functional foods, herbal remedies, pharmaceuticals and/or behavior changes. The group also undertakes pre-clinical and clinical testing of weight loss drugs.

SW: What first drew your interest to the field of obesity, and on what aspects in the field do you focus on specifically?

"...we are focused on appetite regulation, and particularly how different foods and nutrients can work on the appetite hormones from the GI tract to promote satiety."

My mentor was the late professor Flemming Quaade, who was the Danish pioneer who stimulated me and a handful of other young MD's to be interested in obesity. At that stage it was mainly "thermogenesis" in obese patients, but also management of obesity.

Today we are focused on appetite regulation, and particularly how different foods and nutrients can work on the appetite hormones from the GI tract to promote satiety.

SW: Your most-cited paper in our analysis is the 2000 Lancet paper, "Effect of sibutramine on weight maintenance after weight loss: a randomised trial." Would you tell us about this trial and its implications for pharmacological intervention in weight loss?

It was the first randomized study that used a special design to induce and sustain weight loss using sibutramine. In two other studies we also showed that sibutramine reduced hunger and enhanced satiety, as well as increasing caloric expenditure in humans by using our specialized respiratory chambers at my department.

SW: Many of your papers tackle the debate of fat versus carbohydrates in diets, such as whether or not the Atkins diet fad really is beneficial and whether or not carbohydrates are really bad for people's diets. On what side of the issue has your research led you to be? Is there an ideal diet to maintain a healthy weight?

We have shown that all calories are not equal because they exert different effects on satiety, and changes in the diet composition can therefore lead to spontaneous changes in body weight through changes in caloric intake.

Our paper "Randomized trial on protein vs. carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity," (Skov AR, et al., International Journal of Obesity 23[5]: 528-36, May 1999) was the first randomized trial to show that the stronger satiating power of protein leads to greater weight loss during ad libitum intake of a diet providing 25% of calories from protein (versus 12 % protein).

SW: How far would you say obesity research has come in the past decade? Where do you see it going in the next 10 years?

The research is taking dramatic steps in terms of understanding the physiology of energy balance, and how different factors influence appetite and energy expenditure (e.g., impaired sleep, and too-low calcium intake), and we have started to translate these findings into improved non-pharmacological treatment.End

Arne Vernon Astrup, M.D., Dr.Med.Sci.
Department of Human Nutrition
Faculty of Life Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark


James WPT, et al., "Effect of sibutramine on weight maintenance after weight loss: A randomised trial," Lancet 356(9248): 2119-25, 23 December 2000, with 386 cites. Source: Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Clarivate Analytics.


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Arne Vernon Astrup

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Arne Vernon Astrup's research group.


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