PhD Nutrition

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in nutrition prepares you for a career in academia, governmental agencies, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, and private industry. The program is designed to provide an advanced curriculum in nutrition, professional skills, and competencies required to support careers in teaching and research.

Loma Linda University PhD in Nutrition Video

Program Director - Sujatha Rajaram

UnitsCost per UnitLLU Quarterly FeeAverage Completion Time
72$975$8334 years 
Student Housing

A legacy of over 50 years in plant-based nutrition research

The Loma Linda University School of Public Health has a rich history of plant-based nutrition research. We engage in interdisciplinary research across public health disciplines and the Basic Sciences. This collaborative way of working is how we continue to promote and build on our core legacy of vegetarian and plant-based nutrition. Some key studies include:

  • Nutritional epidemiology studies relating plant based diet patterns to health outcomes and longevity (the Adventist health Study)
  • Several clinical trials with plant foods (nuts and soy) intervention and health outcomes
  • Vegetarian nutrition education research
  • Environmental impact of plant based diets compared to animal inclusive diets.

Areas of curricular strength and research emphasis include: 

  • Plant-based diets and the health of the individual
  • Populations and the plane
  • Nutritional epidemiology
  • Diet and chronic disease risk reduction 
  • Community nutrition

Leading the conversation on plant-based nutrition

Guided by its Nutrition faculty, the School of Public Health hosts the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition (ICVN), the premiere scientific conference on the health effects of plant-based diets held every 5 years. The conference is designed to provide a review of the accumulated findings, and introduce theoretical concepts, practical applications, and implications of vegetarian dietary practices for both the prevention of disease and the promotion of health, as well as for the furthering of research endeavors. The theme for the 7th ICVN was Plant-foods for the health of people, populations and the planet.

The 7th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition

In February 2018, we hosted the 7th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, on the campus of Loma Linda University. Since 1987, the congress has been held only every 5 years and is the premier scientific conference on the health effects of plant-based diets. It brings together international scientists, physicians, nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals to showcase the latest advances from basic science, epidemiology, and clinical trials in vegetarian nutrition. Proceedings for the 7th ICVN are underway.

Visit the 7th ICVN website.


Request more information


Prerequisites & Learning Outcomes

Who should consider this program?

Those who may benefit from the program include individuals seeking careers in:

  • Academia (teaching and research)
  • Researcher in private industry, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, research institutes
  • Public health nutritionist
  • Leadership role in academia and public health sector


  • Master's degree in nutrition preferred; or an M.S. or M.P.H. degree with completion of all prerequisite courses; or a health professional degree at the master's level or higher (M.D. or equivalent).
  • Advanced biochemistry (may be taken concurrently with the program)
  • Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, General chemistry and Organic Chemistry.
  • GPA of 3.5 or higher preferred
  • GRE or equivalent (above the 40th percentile in each section is favorable)

Learner Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate and evaluate advanced knowledge in nutritional sciences and apply it to the understanding of diet-disease relationships.
  • Review and illustrate the biological mechanisms underlying the relationships between nutrients, foods, and diet patterns and health.
  • Critically evaluate the evidence base and advocate for the role of plant-based diets in promoting health of the individual, population groups, and the planet.
  • Apply analytical and fundamental concepts in nutritional epidemiology.
  • Conduct a nutrition research study including designing the study, collecting and analyzing the data, and interpreting the research findings.
  • Effectively communicate nutritional science to diverse stakeholders to advance the field and improve the health of the population.
  • Use best practice modalities in pedagogical practices and deliver training or educational experiences that promote learning in academic setting.
  • Apply the principles of scientific and professional ethics.

Educational Effectiveness Indicators

  • Comprehensive examination
  • Dissertation proposal defense (qualifying examination)
  • Dissertation manuscript (2 manuscripts submitted for peer-reviewed journal publication)
  • One peer-reviewed publication (can be as a co-author, original or review article)
  • Oral defense of dissertation
  • Teaching assistant
  • Presentation at scientific conference

Program Requirements

Culminating Experience

As a part of the culminating experience, the student must have one publication in peer-reviewed journal (co-authorship or review article acceptable), submit two manuscripts from their dissertation research to peer reviewed journals, successfully defends dissertation, and submits a committee approved dissertation manuscript. Further details provided in the SPH Doctoral Handbook.



NUTR 504: Nutritional Metabolism

STAT 509: General Statistics

STAT 548 or STAT 549: Analytical Applications of SPSS or Analytical Applications of SAS

NUTR 517: Advanced Nutrition I: CHO, Lipids

NUTR 518: Advanced Nutrition II: Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals​

Required Courses

Public Health Core

STAT 514 Intermediate statistics for health-science data 3

EPDM 509 Principles of epidemiology 3

PHCJ 606 Public health fundamentals 3

PHCJ 612 Transformative communication 2

PHCJ 614 Pedagogy: Art and science of teaching 2

PHCJ 602A, 602B, 602C Doctoral seminar 1, 1, 1

Nutrition Core

NUTR 617 Preventive Nutrition I: Carbohydrates and Lipids 2

NUTR 618 Preventive Nutrition II: Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals 2

NUTR 619 Preventive Nutrition III: Phytochemicals 3

*NUTR 620 Advanced Topics in Nutrition 3

NUTR 664 Vegetarian Nutrition: Person, Population, Planet 3

^NUTR 608A, NUTR 608B, NUTR 608C Scientist Forum 1, 1, 1


RELE 525 Ethics for Scientists 3

RELT xxx Relational 3 (course number not yet assigned)

RELR xxx Theology 3 (course number not yet assigned)

Electives 6

Research Core

NUTR 539 Research Methods in Nutrition 2

NUTR 543 Concepts in Nutritional Epidemiology 3

STAT 568 Data Analysis 3

NUTR 685 Preliminary Research Experience 2

NUTR 698 Doctoral Research 12

Total Units 72

  • *Repeat two times for maximum six units for program core. Each offering in a given quarter in an academic year will be a different topic.
  • ^Register for one unit each quarter for three quarters (fall, winter, spring) of year 2 in the program.
  • `In consultation with academic advisor. Courses must be graduate level courses in nutrition, dietetics, public health or basic sciences.