HNH-31706 Nutrition and the Brain


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. O van de Rest
Lecturer(s)Esther Aarts
dr. PAM Smeets
dr. WT Steegenga
IAC Arnoldussen
dr. ir. O van de Rest
Examiner(s)dr. ir. O van de Rest

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basics of human physiology, basics of nutrition (macro- and micro-nutrients)

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis


Note: This course has a maximum number of participants.
The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. See Academic Year:>Registration for Courses

Scientific insight in the multifaceted role of nutrition in brain development and function is rapidly increasing. This has also fueled societal interest. The same holds true for commercial parties; nutritional supplements are a multi-billion-dollar business. Many nutrition-related health claims related to brain function are made, which raises questions about their evidence-base. This course focuses on the impact of nutritional factors on the brain across the lifespan as well as their involvement in disease.
- basic principles of brain function and development and the effects of non-optimal nutrition such as protein energy malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies;
- basic principles and alterations in brain morphology and function of cognitive ageing and ‘mental disorders’ such as depression, ADHD, autism, aggression, Parkinson, schizophrenia, eating disorders and acute and chronic effects of nutritional and related physiological and behavioral factors (e.g. effects of individual nutrients, dietary patterns, meal type, caloric restriction/ starvation, sleep, stress, chronotype) on mental disorders;
- brain metabolism (ketone bodies, lipids, vitamins), the blood-brain barrier (function and passage of nutrients) and proposed mechanisms for nutritional effects on the brain;
- the role of the gut-brain barrier, including that of the intestinal microbiota and effects of dietary factors.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this courses students are expected to be able to:

- explain the basic alterations in brain morphology and function across the lifespan and in mental disorders;

- explain the impact of nutrition and related factors on brain across the lifespan and in mental disorders;

- explain nutrient metabolism in the brain;

- explain the effects of dietary factors on the gut-brain axis, including their effects on the gut microbiome;

- critically evaluate and judge literature about claims on the effects of nutrition on the brain;
- analyse and evaluate data from experiments on nutritional effects on the brain.


- lectures;

- regular guest lectures on ongoing study or on actual media topic in the field of Nutrition & Brain interactions;

- group work (assignment around nutrition & brain claim, students critically search and evaluate the literature to see to what extent a claim is underpinned, what is the evidence, how it was acquired, which conclusions could be made and which not). Assessment includes peer review using template. End product: report and presentation;

- group work after a lecture on a certain topic students will, based on literature, make a design for a new study in the particular area addressed. End product: report and presentation;

- practical (performing nutritional intervention with students within the course to assess acute effects of different nutritional components (e.g. glucose load, caffeine, 24h fasting, ketogenic diet, nutritional supplements) on cognitive function (e.g. alertness, memory, speed, coordination using app-based/computerized cognitive tasks).


Written exam with open and closed questions (60%), group assignments (40%). Each individual grade needs to be ≥5.5 to pass the course.


To be announced

Restricted Optional for: MNHNutrition and HealthMScF: Food Digestion and Health5AF
MNHNutrition and HealthMScD: Sensory Science5AF
MNHNutrition and HealthMScA: Nutritional and Public Health Epidemiology5AF
MNHNutrition and HealthMScB: Nutritional Physiology and Health Status5AF
MNHNutrition and HealthMScC: Molecular Nutrition and Toxicology5AF