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John P. Thyfault, PhD, FACSM, FTOS

John Thyfault portrait
Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology

Professor, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Pharmacology

Director, KU Diabetes Institute

Scientific Director, Children's Mercy Hospital, Center for Children's Healthy Lifestyle and Nutrition

Scientist, Kansas City VA Medical Center-Research Service

Professional Background

Dr. John Thyfault has research expertise in metabolism, mitochondrial energetics, obesity, and exercise physiology using translational approaches in animal models and human subjects. The broad theme of his research focuses on the mechanisms by which exercise, physical activity, and aerobic capacity reduce susceptibility for obesity, chronic metabolic disease states of insulin resistance and fatty liver, and neurometabolic deficits associated with aging. Dr. Thyfault is a Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Department of Cellular Biology and Physiology and Department of Internal Medicine-Division of Endocrinology. He is also a Research Scientist at the KC VA Medical Center in Kansas City. He also thematically leads metabolism-based research at KUMC through serving as the Co-Director of the Kansas Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research, the Director of the KU Diabetes Institute, and the Co-Director of the TOMAD’s T32 program. He has been continuously funded by the AHA, VA, or NIH since 2008.

Education and Training
  • BS, Health and Human Performance, Fort Hays State University, Hays
  • MS, Exercise Science, Fort Hays State University, Hays
  • PhD, Exercise Physiology, University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Post Doctoral Fellowship, Department of Physiology, East Carolina University-Brody School of Medicine, Greenville
Professional Affiliations
  • The Obesity Society, Fellow, 2016 - Present
  • American College of Sports Medicine, Fellow, 2012 - Present



Chronic physical inactivity, sedentary behavior, and low aerobic fitness are linked to the development of chronic disease conditions including obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, daily physical activity and maintenance of aerobic fitness throughout the lifespan are associated with protection against chronic disease(s). The mechanism(s) underlying the development of these diseases and the role that activity and fitness status play in altering susceptibility remain largely unknown and are the focus of our research. We also have research focused on the links between systemic metabolism and risk for Alzheimers' Disease and neuro-cognitive decline. Additional studies focus on the interaction between statins and skeletal muscle metabolism and aerobic capacity. We utilize integrative (multi-tissue and whole body), translational (cells, rodents, humans) approaches to perform studies in these areas with a focus on clinical or human relevance.

Current Research and Grants
  • Statins, Mitochondrial Function and Aerobic Capacity, NIH
  • Translating Obesity, Metabolic Dysfunction, and Comorbid Disease States, NIH
  • Kansas Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research (KC-MORE), NIH