Let thy food be thy medicine….when possible

Renger F. Witkamp*, Klaske van Norren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


There is no evidence that Hippocrates, although being credited for it, ever literally stated ‘let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’. However, yet in line with Hippocrates’ philosophy, we are currently witnessing a reappraisal of the complementarity of nutrition and pharmacology. Recent studies not only underline the therapeutic potential of lifestyle interventions, but are also generating valuable insights in the complex and dynamic transition from health to disease. Next to this, nutritional biology can significantly contribute to the discovery of new molecular targets. It is clear that most of the current top-selling drugs used in chronic cardio-metabolic diseases modulate relatively late-stage complications, which generally indicate already longer existing homeostatic imbalances. Pharmacologists are increasingly aware that typical multifactorial disorders require subtle, multiple target pharmacological approaches, instead of the still often dominating ‘one disease - one target - one drug’ paradigm. This review discusses the recent developments in the pharma-nutrition interface and shows some relevant mechanisms, including receptors and other targets, and examples from clinical practice. The latter includes inflammatory diseases and progressive loss of muscle function. The examples also illustrate the potential of targeted combinations of medicines with nutrition and (or) other life-style interventions, to increase treatment efficacy and (or) reduce adverse effects. More attention to a potentially negative outcome of drug-food combinations is also required, as shown by the example of food-drug interactions. Together, the developments at the food-pharma interface underline the demand for intensified collaboration between the disciplines, in the clinic and in science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-114
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2018


  • Food-drug interactions
  • Inflammation
  • Nutrition
  • Sarcopenia, Cachexia, Food-Pharma

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