Nutrition and Immunity- From the Bench to the Bedside

“So… what should I be eating?”

This was the most common question I heard during my time working on, and supervising, clinical trials during my PhD. Each time, I had to remind the subjects that it was illegal (and unethical) for me to give individual dietary advice, and that the general nutrition guidelines were all I could offer. Also, I was usually only around to collect their blood.

I’m not a dietician. I’m a chemical engineer, turned nutrition scientist (5th year PhD student), and starting in September I’ll be a medical student. The last five years of my life have been dedicated to projects related to immunity- investigating how and why nutrition impacts specific immune cells, and more recently, how nutrition might affect our risk of autoimmune conditions.

There is so much to learn in terms of how our diet affects our immune system, but what’s interesting is that what (broadly) supports a healthy immune system is a dietary pattern that supports a healthy human in general. This includes:

  • Making sure we get enough calories (the immune system needs fuel!)
  • Lots of fruits & vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts & seeds

But don’t feel bad about eating that cake! One of the key lessons that I picked up in graduate school is that nutrition isn’t everything. Stress, sleep, exercise, community, and economic situation all have major impacts on our health and food choices (especially economic situation). A healthy dietary pattern has room for whatever dessert you like best, the key is moderation.

For now, I’m excited to help Nutritank in their mission to help educate and communicate with health professionals about nutrition. Especially since the pandemic has the entire world asking:

“So… what should I be eating?”

I support Nutritank because understanding nutrition (the basic science of it all, and the socio-economic factors that influence it) will hopefully help health care professionals provide better care.


Hannah VanEvery, MS Instagram: @hannah.van_nutri.sci

Share this post