Nutrition and Disease

The societal mission of the chair group Nutrition and Disease within the Division of Human Nutrition and Health is ‘to decrease the risk of (chronic) disease and improve the health of those with a disease through better nutrition’. Our scientific mission is ‘to conduct interdisciplinary human observational and experimental research on nutrition in disease aetiology, during treatment and for prognosis’. We focus on cardiometabolic diseases, cancer, gastro-intestinal diseases and obesity.

The chair group comprises a team of experts in the field of epidemiology, nutrition, medicine, physiology, biostatistics and medical biology. We conduct observational epidemiological studies, experimental studies in individuals at (high-)risk or with (preclinical) disease, clinically oriented research and meta-analyses. Human observational and experimental studies are used to study the role of healthy and sustainable nutrition, genetic susceptibility and lifestyle factors in the aetiology and prevention of chronic nutrition-related diseases, underpinned with research on pathophysiological mechanisms. Our clinically orientated research focuses on short-and long-term recovery of chronic and acute diseases through healthy and sustainable diets and well-accepted nutritious foods combined with physical activity.

Novel methods of dietary assessment and data-analysis, as well as (bio)markers of exposure, function, metabolism, genetic susceptibility, body composition, and (pre-) disease are being developed, evaluated and used in these studies in collaboration with colleagues within the Division of Human Nutrition and Health. Furthermore, research is conducted in close collaboration with the Alliance Nutrition in Health Care and various peripheral and academic hospitals.

We define four research themes:

1. Cancer

Our research on cancer mainly focusses on nutrition and other lifestyle factors in relation to the development and progression of colorectal cancer and breast cancer. We study a wide range of dietary exposures, including B-vitamins, vitamin D, dietary supplements, body composition and dietary patterns. Endpoints that are studied are cancer incidence and cancer survival and treatment complications, but we also investigate underlying mechanisms, e.g. by evaluating diet-gene interactions, epigenetics, gene-expression, intestinal and tumor microbiota, and inflammatory markers. Our studies are conducted in high-risk individuals, cancer patients and the general population.

2. Cardiovascular diseases

Our research on cardiovascular diseases mainly focuses on nutrition in relation to coronary heart disease and stroke. Research is done on cardiovascular disease endpoints and on blood pressure, serum lipids, kidney function and pathophysiological processes, such as endothelial dysfunction and inflammation. Cardiovascular diseases are primarily caused by an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. We study a wide range of dietary factors, including minerals, salt, fatty acids, protein, polyphenols, dairy products, plant foods, and dietary patterns.

3. Chronic bowel disease

4. Obesity treatment

Besides these four themes, there are two overarching pillars related to education and data management.

Data management, analysis, interpretation, translation

We make sure that we are optimally trained, and connected to conduct well-designed studies, and analyse and interpret the data with novel techniques and utmost care. Therefore, several people in our team focus on integrating (big) data from different sources and disciplines, data-analyses and interpretation of findings.


Our group is highly committed to provide high quality education closely related to our research themes. Together with the Chair ‘Global Nutrition’, we are responsible for education on epidemiological and public health concepts and methods. This gives students the opportunity to be registered as Epidemiologist A by the Netherlands Society for Epidemiology.

Key publications Nutrition and Disease

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