HNH-23306 Pharmacology and Nutrition


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper0
Group work6
Course coordinator(s)M Defour
prof. dr. RF Witkamp
Lecturer(s)M Defour
prof. dr. RF Witkamp
MSc MGJ Balvers
dr. K van Norren
ing. MCR Poland
IAC Arnoldussen
Examiner(s)dr. K van Norren
prof. dr. RF Witkamp

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

HAP-10306 Principles of Human Physiology; CBI-10306 Cell Biology ;  HAP-21303 Integrated Human Physiology or equivalent knowledge of (Human) Physiology at academic level; PCC-12803 General Chemistry for the Life Sciences (or equivalent)

Continuation courses:

 HNH-37506 Metabolic Consequences of Chronic Disease


The boundaries between pharmacology and nutrition are sometimes less clear than you might think. Traditionally, nutrition has primarily been focusing on health maintenance and the prevention of deficiencies. Pharmacology on the other hand usually deals with drugs/medicines or vaccines, which are intended to cure or prevent some form of disease, trauma, or at least a medical complaint. However, it is clear that our diet, the nutrients and the natural bio-actives we are consuming or taking - by coincidence or on purpose – can help to prevent- or even cure disease. Also from a scientific and commercial point of view, “pharma” and “food” are keeping an eye on each other, and at several points there exists a grey zone in between them. Here we also find products like food-supplements and medicinal foods.
The focus of this course will be more on pharmacology than on nutrition. The majority of the students taking the course will be following many food and nutrition-related courses during the rest of their study program. Studying the basic principles of pharmacology will help them to better understand the molecular mechanisms of bio-active compounds in the diet and interpret scientific research in this field. In addition, for those students who are interested in clinical research or in a career in pharmaceutical research and development, the course provides a basis and an introduction to “the pharma language”.
This course starts with an introduction of the basic concepts of pharmacology and the different classes of medicinal compounds that are in use. Differences and similarities between drugs, nutrients and dietary supplements will be addressed, as well as the way these are discovered and developed into products. Attention will also be given to the consequences of drug formulations for dose-regimen and effect(s). Examples from clinical therapy will be used to illustrate pharmacotherapy. We will also discuss possible interactions between nutrients and drugs. Next, we will see how this can work in practice. At the same time, we make the link with nutrition again when we will evaluate nutritional supplements in working groups.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand the basic principles of pharmacology and to explain the general mechanisms of action of the most important classes of medicines;
- perform basic calculations on the behaviour of drugs in the body (pharmacokinetics) and to estimate dosing schedules based on these calculations;
- explain how the formulation of an active compound can influence its effects and side-effects;
- explain the differences and similarities between drugs (medicines), dietary supplements and functional foods in terms of their legal status and use;
- understand pharmacological methods and the way medicines are being discovered and developed;
- understand how molecular nutrition research can benefit from the principles of target identification as developed in pharmacological research;
- understand and explain the major mechanisms of food-drug interactions;
- interpret a drug package leaflet;
form an opinion on a food supplement or dietary intervention strategy with a health claim, and to evaluate its role in the prevention or treatment of a disease from a nutritional and pharmacological point of view;
- use and evaluate (sources of-) information on medicines and food supplements that are made available through the internet.


The course will contain several parts:
- 24 lectures;
- 4 tutorials (of half a day each);
- 1 E-learning module on immunopharmacology;
- Laboratory practical (5 half days);
- 2 group assignments about a food supplement and drug, respectively;
- organised feed-back and self-assessment sessions.


Written exam:
Final mark is based on individual written exam(s) with open and multiple choice questions. During the course, there will be 2 written (partial) exams which each count for 50 % of the final mark. The first (partial) exam is taken on the Monday of week 5 of the course (in 2020-2021 this is week 13 of the academic year). This first exam covers the topics general pharmacology and pharmacokinetics, which are taught during the first 4 weeks of the course (lectures 1-6 ; theory of the practicals, and specified parts of the syllabus). The first partial exam contains open questions only.
The second partial exam is taken during the regular exam period in December. It covers the topics specific pharmacology and pharmacotherapy as well as legal and regulatory aspects of drugs and food supplements. These more cognitive elements are covered by lectures 7-12, the tutorials, the textbook, specified parts of the syllabus and the case studies. Questions will be a mix of multiple choice questions and open (knowledge) questions.
For students following the course, the option of two partial exams is the only option to complete the course in period 2. Only in highly exceptional cases (formal statement from medical doctor or study advisor needed), there will be an opportunity to take an entire exam during the regular exam period in December.
For re-exam students (only) there remains the opportunity to take a complete exam during the regular exam period in December. This also applies to the other resits January / February and in August. Candidates are considered re-exam students when they have not taken, or failed the partial exams during the course.
Other elements
To successfully complete the course, active participation in the practicals and sufficient result of written report are needed. Next to this, the group report on food supplements and the two group presentation need to be of at least sufficient level.
If the judgement of the food supplement case study is excellent, 4% extra points can be earned on top of the written exam result.
Presence during some course activities indicated as compulsory in the detailed course schedule is required.


Course reader will be available at the WUR-shop.
J.M. Ritter, R. Flower, G. Henderson, Y.K. Loke, D. MacEwan and H.P. Rang (2020). Rang & Dales Pharmacology. 9th edition, Elsevier Book, ISBN : 9780702074486

Compulsory for: BVGNutrition and HealthBSc2MO
Restricted Optional for: MBTBiotechnologyMScC: Spec. C - Medical Biotechnology2MO
Compulsory for: WUNHEBSc Minor Nutrition and Health2MO
Restricted Optional for: WUHAHBSc Minor Healthy Aging in Humans and Model Species2MO