Pharmacology and Nutrition


About this course

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.

Required prior knowledge

Mandatory Knowledge:
ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety
Assumed Knowledge:
HAP10306 Principles of Human Physiology;
CBI10306 Cell Biology;
HAP21303 Integrated Human Physiology or equivalent knowledge of (Human) Physiology at academic level;
PCC12803 General Chemistry for the Life Sciences (or equivalent).

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    28 October 2024

    • Ends
      20 December 2024
    • Term *
      Period 2
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 29 Sept 2024
    Enrolment starts in 3 days
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University