Advice from the Experts: Top Diet Tips from Professor Tim Spector 

We asked top genealogist and founder of Twins UK, Professor Tim Spector, to provide nutritional advice inspired by his research into microbes, genetics and diet. Much of this research is captured within The Diet Myth, the book within which Professor Spector exposes the shortcomings of many fad diets and the prevalence of pseudo-science surrounding nutrition. 

We have been ignoring a powerful, forgotten organ of our bodies that has the power to reverse our fortunes. This is the part of our lower gut that weighs 1.8kg and contains 100 trillion microbes.  Microbes in the gut live off high fibre food that reaches the lower part of our intestines called the colon. They break the food down and produce chemicals that in turn keep us healthy. 

We all possess a unique set of microbes, vastly outnumbering our cells and genes. Cutting-edge science and technology is now allowing us to see how these microbes can be encouraged to keep us slim, avoid heart attacks and allergies, and even reduce a hangover. It’s time to stop believing the old myths and misconceptions about food and embrace what science is now revealing about ourselves.

Top Tips to Improve your Gut Microbes

The good news is that, unlike your genes, it is possible to reboot your gut and increase microbe diversity. Professor Spector shares his top tips:

    • Avoid processed foods and those with too much sugar, sweetener or fruit juices.
    • Feed your microbes by increasing the fibre content of your diet.
    • Microbes love artichokes; leeks; celery; chicory; onions and garlic. After an illness, course of antibiotics or fasting try to consume these prebiotics   regularly.
    • Include fresh foods and lots nuts, cheese, yoghurt and extra-virgin olive oil in your diet.
    • Give your microbes a holiday by fasting every now and then, even if just for 16 hours.
    • Aim to eat a variety of 20 ingredients every week, experiment to find the ones that best suit you and your microbes.
    • Coffee and dark chocolate (in moderation) are good for your microbes and overall health.
    • Avoid vitamin supplements – they don’t work and can be harmful. Concentrate on eating real food, and your microbes will do the rest.
    • Experiment with different foods to find the ones that best suit you and your microbes.
    • Your gut needs fertiliser, experimentation, nutrients, the avoidance of toxins (junk food) and, above all, diversity.
    • Test your own gut microbes (via www.britishgut.org) to see how they can change on different diets after only a few days. 

And if you do nothing else, simply increase the quantity and variety of the fruit and vegetables you eat.

Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetics at Kings College London and Consultant Physician at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital London. His book The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat is published by W&N. 

Article posted: April, 2016