Welcome to the ZOE Health Academy: A letter from Prof. Tim Spector

Like most people, I learned my first food myths as a child. Fish makes you brainy. Meat and eggs make your muscles grow strong. Chocolate gives you acne. Nuts are full of fats and therefore unhealthy. 

I was also told vitamins are important, that I should never skip meals, eat little and often, and that exercise is key to losing weight.

These messages are sometimes rooted in the best intentions (though sometimes not), but none of them are backed up by science. And some of them are completely false.

But repetition is the mother of learning, and we have repeated these food myths to ourselves, our children, and our loved ones — and governments and organizations have repeated them to the general population.

If we say it enough, it must be true. Right?

Wrong. Our studies have shown that how you and I react to eating an identical meal is very different. 

Our research allows us to predict how your body responds to the food you eat, based on factors like your sleep, exercise, what time you eat, and the composition of your gut microbiome. 

This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition advice doesn’t work. 

To fight misinformation, we’ve created the ZOE Health Academy to arm you with the knowledge you need to make health decisions for yourself, based on what the science shows us. 

Here, we shed the veil of myth that has prevented us from thriving, and we lay bare the facts that are key to really understanding our bodies and what they need.

For example, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating fat-free or low-fat dairy products, like yogurt. But research, including ours, shows that eating full-fat yogurt supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. 

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that many of the additives we find in processed foods are safe and probably don’t cause any harm. 

But our research has shown that eating a lot of ultra-processed foods, which typically contain lots of salt, sugar, fat, and additives, is linked with having more potentially harmful gut bacteria. This, in turn, can put you at greater risk of gaining weight or chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

All of us face food choices each day. Making even minor tweaks to your eating habits can change the complex landscape of your gut health for the better. 

Although there is no simple black-and-white answer, learning more about the food you eat and the science behind it will help you make more informed choices for your body.

ZOE means life in Greek. We want you to live your life to the fullest, and this includes enjoying food. We are here for you, to arm you with the evidence you need and the confidence to make positive choices for your individual health so you can truly flourish.

Together we can do great things for our health as well as the planet — so let's get going!