Jonas Salling Quist is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Denmark, and Visiting Researcher at University of Leeds, UK, and Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He has a background in exercise and human nutrition and a PhD in Health and Medical Sciences from University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In his research, Jonas focuses on circadian rhythm, exercise, appetite, and metabolism in relation to prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Jonas conducts human intervention studies and in addition to biomedical methods, involvement of the end users in the design and evaluation of lifestyle interventions in collaboration with qualitative researchers is a central part of his research.
“My research has contributed to the understanding of the effects of exercise on energy balance and appetite control in individuals with overweight or obesity as well as the importance of sufficient and regular sleep for cardiometabolic health and for dietary risk factors for obesity among children”.
Congratulations Jonas, lovely to meet you and looking forward to learning more about your work. Please tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark, with my parents and little sister. During childhood and thereafter, exercise and especially swimming have been a great part of my life – both for my own exercise and as a swimming teacher for children and adults, and as head of a swimming club in Copenhagen in parallel with my studies. Later on, running and biking became my favorite types of regular exercise. Furthermore, during my childhood, sailing during summer holidays and skiing in winter with my family were traditions, and I have continued to go alpine skiing with friends, which I really enjoy. During my time in elementary School, I was member of the Copenhagen Boys Choir, which took me to several places around the world. I appreciate traveling and exploring new places, especially places with a nice beach!
I have a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science, and a Masters in Human Nutrition from University of Copenhagen. When I completed my studies, I was fortunate to receive a PhD scholarship to undertake a PhD in Health and Medical Sciences at University of Copenhagen. For my PhD, I investigated effects of exercise training on energy balance, appetite, and sleep in individuals with overweight or obesity as part of a large randomized controlled trial. For many years before my advanced studies, I had been fascinated by the human body and human physiology, so my direction of study came from this. Scientific curiosity and the balance between independent working – like writing and reading – and collaboration and teamwork are both important aspects of research, which I find very motivating and valuable. Furthermore, supervision of students and younger researchers is a great part of my work and something I find meaningful and enjoyable. During the last year of my PhD at Department of Biomedical Sciences, Professor Kristine Færch from Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and I applied for funding for a project in which we would investigate effects time-restricted eating in individuals with overweight or obesity at high risk of type 2 diabetes. We were fortunate to have received the grant, which gave me the opportunity to be employed as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen after my PhD to conduct the (RESET) study. I have been at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen since 2018 now, and am also affiliated with the Appetite Control and Energy Balance Research Group at University of Leeds, UK where we have close collaboration with Professors Graham Finlayson and Dr Kristine Beaulieu. I am still affiliated with the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen and have continued collaborations with my principal PhD supervisor and mentor, Professor Bente Stallknecht and colleagues.
Fascinating, thanks Jonas. We would also love to learn more about the area of Denmark you live in.
I live in Valby, which is a part of Copenhagen, approximately 5 km/15 min by bike from the city center. Copenhagen is very bike friendly — actually the most bike friendly city in the world, and we usually ride our bikes everywhere since it is much faster than public transport or car – and of course cycling is an important and feasible way to be physically active. I travel around 10 km to work, which is a perfect distance and gives me an hour on the bike each day, which I really appreciate. Denmark is a small country with approximately 5.8 million inhabitants and a large coastline, meaning that the distance to the beach is small almost everywhere in Denmark, which is really important for people like me who love swimming during all seasons of the year.
Winter swimming in Copenhagen! Not for the faint of spirit. How did you initially develop an interest in the field of obesity?
My fascination about and interest in the human body and physiology started early, in relation to my swimming and physical activity and focus on nutrition in general. Early on I became interested in strategies to prevent and treat obesity and to understand why some people develop overweight and obesity whereas others are able to lose and maintain weight more readily.
How did you become interested in your current research area, Jonas? Do you have other key research interests?
Understanding the role of and complex interrelationship between physical activity/exercise, nutrition, and sleep in relation to energy balance and prevention, and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes is the overall aim of my research at present and is a great motivation for me. I am fascinated by the complexity of lifestyle/behavior changes and what facilitates and hinders lifestyle change and weight loss.
Help us learn more about your award winning research:
In my research, I focus on circadian rhythm, exercise, appetite, and metabolism in relation to the prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. My research has contributed to the understanding of the effects of exercise on energy balance and appetite control in individuals with overweight/obesity as well as the importance of sufficient and regular sleep for cardiometabolic health and for dietary risk factors for obesity among children. Recently, in a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, we showed that short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and circadian misalignment negatively affect insulin sensitivity which stresses the importance of sleep in relation to diabetes prevention. Design and testing of lifestyle interventions with involvement of the users in the design phase and evaluation, conducted working together with qualitative researchers, is a central part of my research.
In collaboration with researchers from Denmark, University of Leeds, UK, and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, CA, US, we have initiated time-restricted eating RCTs in the prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes in Denmark. Among other ongoing projects, we just completed the time-restricted eating RCT that I mentioned earlier, RESET, including 100 individuals with overweight/obesity and pre-diabetes (data management and analysis is ongoing). In addition, we are currently conducting a time-restricted eating pilot study in individuals with overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes which will be used to design a large time-restricted eating RCT (RESET2 study) which will be conducted at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen. Together with colleagues and collaborators, we have established an international scientific network within circadian rhythm, metabolism and lifestyle related diseases (CIRCLE-DOME). Recently, we received funding for a large study on hedonic and homeostatic appetite control in obesity and type 2 diabetes which is a collaboration with researchers from University of Leeds and Novo Nordisk A/S. In collaboration with colleagues in Leeds and industry, we have developing the ’Steno Biometric Food Preference Task’, a novel method to measure food preferences and reward using a computer task and concomitant biometric measurements, a method which is already implemented in ongoing and planned clinical studies at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and has a great potential to be used in future studies in prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What are your future career plans?
I really appreciate collaborations and project management and recently received training in research leadership, so after 4 years as a Postdoctoral Researcher, I am currently in transition to my next career step in research. I am highly motivated to continue my line of research at Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, and I think there is a great potential for future studies in prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes within my areas of interest and expertise. I really enjoy my work and appreciate the support I receive in terms of my career and development. My dream and ambition is to become a professor one day but most importantly that my research can contribute to knowledge that can be used to improve the lives of people living with obesity and type 2 diabetes , and to preventing people from developing these conditions.
I’m certain we will be hearing more about your work in the future, Jonas! Aside from your professional interests and cycling and swimming, are there other hobbies and pastimes you would like to share with the community?
As mentioned above, being physically active – running and bicycling are key pleasures and along with spending time with family and friends are the important parts of my life. I really enjoy alpine skiing and spending time at the beach in or outside of Denmark — and travelling in general.