New research explores the effect of nutrition on the fitness of the immune system

Start of the partnership program NWO-Domain AES – Danone Nutricia Research

The 26th of March marks the start of four scientific projects that will investigate the effects of nutrition on the fitness of the immune system. The investigators received funding for these projects from the Partnership-program of NWO-Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) and Danone Nutricia Research. NWO and Danone Nutricia Research are investing a total of 3 million Euros in this program.

How do we define a fit immune system?

The immune system is one of the most important systems in the human body. On one hand, the immune system protects us against external invaders that can cause disease; on the other hand, the immune system needs to secure tolerance against safe components that enter our body, such as food antigens. The immune system needs to be well balanced, or “fit”, to deal with all the challenges  it encounters. The immune response should not be too weak, which could lead to infections, but also not too strong, which could lead to allergies and chronic or auto-immune disorders. It is estimated that 70-80% of the cells in the immune system, resides in the gut where it comes in regular contact with food. Therefore, it is crucial to perform research into the effect of nutrition on the fitness of the immune system, the focus of the current program.

The awarded projects

In 2018, NWO-Domain AES awarded funding to four projects. These projects focus on the prevention and dietary management of specific food allergies and how nutrition supports the immune system. During the program, the aim is to translate the scientific findings and insights into novel food concepts for groups with specific nutritional needs, such as infants, toddlers and patients.

Details on the awarded projects can be found on the NWO website.


The NWO-Domain AES invited Danone Nutricia Research to participate in this partnership program, one of the NWO-instruments for public-private-partnerships. An independent expert committee selected the best proposals based on scientific quality, likelihood that the research results can be translated into practice and the fit with the theme of the program. During the duration of the program, NWO will monitor the research results and the opportunities to translate these results into concrete solutions.