Healthy and Sustainable Nutrition & Western Diseases

The professorship Healthy and Sustainable Nutrition & Western Diseases aims to develop and transfer knowledge about the effect of healthy food on physical and mental disorders, on cognitive performances and on the healthcare budget. Our Western dietary pattern is considered  to be one of the causes of Western diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and mental disorders. This professorship focuses on the question whether unprocessed food might contribute to the reduction of Western diseases.

About the professor

Professor Esther Nederhof studied Human Movements Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Already during her study she became fascinated by the tension between acute and chronic effects. First you work out, which makes you tired, and while resting after the training you become stronger. After completing her education Nederhof went to Groningen to do a Ph.D. Her thesis is about overtraining amongst athletes. This is the case when the achievements of an athlete decline as the result of a disturbed balance between training and resting. After getting her Ph.D. she worked for a year as a post-doctoral researcher in Brussels, where she examined  this balance amongst both athletes and military men. 

Since 2008 Nederhof is working as a researcher at the Department of Psychiatry at the UMCG. Here, she examined how the acute effect of stress predicted the effect of stressful events over a longer period of time. Gradually her interest moved towards the relationship between food and mental disorders. In food there is also tension between acute and chronic effects. It seems the acute safety of our food has negative effects on our health in the long term. Since the summer of 2015 Nederhof combines her function as researcher at the UMCG with the function as Professor Healthy and Sustainable Food & Nutritional Diseases at Van Hall Larenstein. 


To reduce the amount Western diseases first of all research must be done into the most suitable preventive dietary pattern. The moment the most suitable diet has been identified, research has to be done into which transitions will be necessary to guarantee sufficient availability.

What do we do?

Over the last year(September 2016-September 2017)  the professorship has engaged in: 

  • Research into the effect of two dietary patterns is about to start. A project employee has been appointed, and at the moment we are working on the necessary contracts and consents and on the database that is to make it possible to gather data. 
  • Delivered a contribution to education by guest lectures, group assignments and graduation projects. 
  • Contributions to various conferences/symposia. 
  • There is continually being worked on support for cooperation between the professorship and the professional field (companies, healthcare institutions, social organisations, government, educational institutions) by personal meetings and presentations. 
  • Organising a symposium on the lifestyle, including food, of our healthy ancestors  
  • on 30 September 2017 (see 
  • The professorship has developed a new type of education that next year will be used both within and outside Van Hall Larenstein. 
  • The professorship delivers a contribution to the design of circular food of Circular Fryslan. 
  • The professorship is involved in the Northern Innovation Board, among other things through the Professor’s membership of the Northern Health Food Board.


In the multi-annual plan 2015-2019 the professorship has developed four research topics. All of them under the direction of Professor Esther Nederhof. 

  • ‘Citizen science’ 
    For this project as many as possible Dutch people are being asked to undergo a transition in their dietary pattern and thus contribute to the research to find the most suitable diet for the prevention of Western diseases. 
  • ‘Food transitions in health care’ 
    Within this topic is examined whether  a transition to unprocessed products in kitchens in health care institutions improves the health and well-being of the patients. 
  • ‘Healthy employees’ 
    Within the topic healthy employees a strategy is being developed to prompt employees to a transition in their dietary pattern. To achieve this the food industry develops economically feasible healthy products.  In addition innovative measuring instruments are being developed with which people can monitor their own health. 
  • ‘sustainable products’ 
    This topic will be worked out in more detail as soon as the best dietary pattern is identified. Here  an inventory will be made of the necessary transitions within the food production  and into the global possibilities.


> Research into the effect of healthy dietary  patterns: 

  • physical and mental disorders 
  • cognitive performances 
  • the health care budget 

> Strategies for behavioural changes with respect to healthy dietary patterns. 

> Translate necessary adjustments in dietary patterns into economically feasible, stainable products. 

Knowledge centre

Five lecturers of Life Sciences & Technology are participating in the knowledge centre of the professorship. In addition two project employees have been appointed within the professorship. The  knowledge centre confers 8 times a year, to keep one another informed of the research developments, input from the professorship in education and of communication from the professorship to the outside world. A student assistant supports the knowledge centre. 

  • Martina Sura, researcher-lecturer, PhD 
  • Maaike Stoel, researcher-lecturer, PhD 
  • Han Suelmann, researcher-lecturer, PhD 
  • Han Roelofsen, researcher-lecturer, PhD 
  • Truus Richter, MSc 
  • researcher-lecturer 
  • Laura Baars, project employee 
  • Anouk Willems, project employee 
  • Merlot stolk, student assistant 


Professor Esther Nederhof 
Tel: +31 (0)6 26 69 96 53