Ellen José van der Gaag - Heuvel


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Personal profile

My research interest started in 1997, at the dermatology laboratory in the LUMC (Leiden, The Netherlands) and Boston University (USA). I performed cell cultures, western blots and more basic research. But most of all, I was touched by the international cooperation in these laboratories. After that period, the internships started and later on the residency in pediatrics. I started to work in a general hospital in general pediatrics. I have always had the ambition to do research. My goal is to give a daily clinical practice perspective to academic research.


What is healthy food for a growing child?

What products to choose by parents when grocery shopping?

What do we do when our children do not want to eat healthy food?

Has cauliflower the same health benefits as spinach?

And what about dairy products? Artificially flavoured milk also contains dairy proteins, so why prefer normal milk? 

Since there were no research groups in my hospital, I was able to choose the subject I cared for the most; eating habits, feeding problems and everyday problems parents encounter in raising normal kids. Last decades, a lot of things have changed and social coherence has decreased. Normal (old fashioned) eating habits have disappeared and people eat more easy available food. Everybody knows that healthy food is good. But no real education about the benefits of healthy food or how to implement it in daily life is given to the parents. 

Health improving aspects of a dietary advice in children. 

In the developed world, health, nutrition and health care has improved a lot over the last decennia. 

 However, children suffering from relatively mild health problems, such as recurrent upper respiratory tract infections, tiredness, aspecific allergies, subclinical hypothyroidism etcetera, are still frequent. These conditions, while not being directly life-threatening, can decrease the quality of life and the development of the child. 

 In 2007, we started with a group of children (aged 1-4 years) suffering from recurrent upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). The problem with these patients is that a causative therapy is lacking when a medical reason is absent. For about 5% of these children, a medical reason is found. For the remaining 95% there is no solution, they can only “grow out of the problem”. For the latter patients it can take more than 4 years with parental absence from work, lots of antibiotic use and doctors’ visits, feeding problems etcetera before eventually “growing out of the problem”. 

 We started to identify the social and nutritional aspects of children with and without URTI. In the current research we will focus on the nutritional aspects. 

 For this questionnaires were distributed among the parents of children aged 1-4 years. Careful analysis of the responses revealed that the children suffering from URTI ate less vegetables and beef. These food products are not easy to eat, but rich of nutrients. We hypothesized that a nutrient rich dietary advice could be helpful for children suffering from URTI. 

 In the following years we developed a nutrient rich dietary advice with the NEVO tables. It consists of 3 times a week beef, 5 times a week green vegetables, daily 300 ml whole milk and butter. All food products in age appropriate portions. 

 We are investigating the effects of our dietary advice on the children with URTI. We are also investigating the effects on children with subclinical hypothyroidism and tiredness. 

 Most of the parents are afraid for the possible side effects of the whole milk and butter. From previous research we already concluded that there does not seem to be an unfavourable change in the lipid profile. The HDL increases and the cholesterol/HDL ratio decreases; a favourable trend with respect to possible cardiovascular risk factors in the future. 

The growth parameters did not change significantly either, the BMI and body weight did not increase more compared to the control groups.

Education/Academic qualification

Leiden University Medical Center

1 Aug 199225 Jun 1999

Award Date: 25 Jun 1999

University Medical Center Groningen

1 Oct 20001 Oct 2005

External positions

Pediatrician, Ziekenhuis Groep Twente (ZGT)

1 Oct 2005 → …


  • R Medicine (General)
  • nutrition
  • pediatrics
  • lifestyle


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