“They get tested for their blood sugar, their blood fat and their microbes and we put all that together into a computer algorithm to generate personalized scores that you can use on your phone to then just trade off certain foods against each other and work out which ones are the ones best for your own metabolism, for your own blood sugar levels for your own blood fat levels, and those that can improve your own microbes,” explained Professor Tim Spector, Epidemiologist from King's College London and scientific founder of ZOE.
Spector is working to help people not only better understand their gut microbiomes, but be excited about it.
“I think the key is to get people interested in the topic and to make them realize if they understand more about their gut microbes, then a lot of the myths about our diets become exposed. You realize that one size doesn't fit all, that what suited your neighbor or your sister and helped them lose weight or get healthy isn't going to necessarily work for you. And that whole idea of calories doesn't make sense in a microbe world. And suddenly you realize that food is much more than just fats and carbohydrates. It's hundreds of chemicals that are actually fuel for your microbes and if you start seeing your gut microbiome as this amazing community of a hundred trillion beings that are basically all chemical factories and they act together as a virtual organ and they weigh about the same as your brain—and if you think of it as like a second brain that are producing these amazing chemicals, that are really good for boosting your metabolism, helping you get rid of excess fat, helping you stay alert and not get anxious and depressed and they're helping boost your immune system, then you can start thinking ‘I really want to look after these guys,’” said Spector.
ZOE is currently running several studies that explore the links between transit time, gut microbes, diet and health.
“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg of this explosion of knowledge about how we can use these natural microbes to help our health. Whether it's just losing weight or it's things like our mental health, improving our mood or importantly at the moment, our immune systems and fighting Covid,” said Spector.
One of Spectors biggest challenges is shifting common beliefs on what is healthy and teaching consumers that every gut is different.
“People have to get people away from these dogmas about blaming the fat or it's blaming the carbs or ‘I've got to go on a six-week keto’ or I've got to do this or that. It's about changing the whole way we think about food and making sure it's a long-term love affair between the food we put in our mouths and those lovely gut microbes inside us.”