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ZOE’s co-founder, Jonathan Wolf, on the future of nutrition science

Jonathan Wolf is the CEO and co-founder of ZOE, a health technology company that focusses on personalised nutrition. ZOE runs the world’s largest nutrition science study with universities such as Harvard and King’s College London, investigating the gut microbiome and how nutrition can improve overall health and wellbeing. During the COVID pandemic, their valuable technology was utilised to help scientists understand more about the virus. The COVID-19 symptom study app was designed at record speed and had a million users within 24 hours of launch.

Dr Louise Newson speaks with Jonathan about the latest understanding of how the gut microbiome affects our health and weight, how much our genes our to blame (or thank) for our body shape, and about ZOE’s latest study into the menopause and metabolic responses, nutrition and the microbiome.

For more information on ZOE’s research and products, visit Join Zoe.

The podcast mentioned and hosted by Jonathan is ‘ZOE Science and Nutrition’.

Episode Transcript:

Dr Louise Newson [00:00:09] Hello. I’m Dr Louise Newson. And welcome to my podcast. I’m a GP and menopause specialist and I run the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I’m also the founder of the menopause charity and the menopause support app called balance. On the podcast, I will be joined each week by an exciting guest to help provide evidence-based information and advice about both the perimenopause and the menopause.

Dr Louise Newson [00:00:45] So today on the podcast, I have with me, Jonathan Wolf, who I’ve known his wife actually longer than him and didn’t realise they were connected, and most of you hopefully have heard of the ZOE app, which Jonathan is the founder of, and he’s now about to launch a podcast series called ZOE Science Nutrition. So I was introduced to him recently, and I decided to hoick him into the studio and record a podcast with him. So welcome. Jonathan, thanks ever so much for coming this morning.

Jonathon Wolf [00:01:13] It’s a pleasure to be here, Louise.

Dr Louise Newson [00:01:15] So, you’re married to Justine who’s an amazing dermatologist who I’ve known for a while, actually, because I’m very interested in skin. I’m very interested in everything about the menopause, as you know. But the skin is an amazing organ that lots of people don’t realise, and skin changes in the menopause are really, really common. So I reached out, to Justine a while ago we’ve had some great chats. And then in the last chat, she said, Oh, maybe sometime you should meet my husband. I was like ‘Why?’. So, I hadn’t realised this connection and then over COVID I connected with Tim Spector, who I’ve always stalked from afar because I love his work, especially with nutrition. And then the rest is history, if you like, so it’s great to be connected. So can you talk a bit about ZOE? Because I think a lot of people only think about the COVID Symptom app, which obviously has been very important in terms of COVID. But ZOE wasn’t created about – it was created before COVID anyway. So could you just explain a bit about ZOE and what you do and how you’ve got to where you are?

Jonathon Wolf [00:02:13] Absolutely. I’d love to and I love the introduction through my wife. Justine will be delighted and you could view us a bit as mirror images because my wife Justine is a dermatologist. She’s obsessed by the skin, and ZOE is really about, you know, the flip side of that, which is the guts, which actually is sort of a mirror image of the skin because although it’s inside you, it’s actually outside you. As a doctor, as you know Louise, right because the food goes through and actually it’s always on the outside. And most of our immune system is actually about managing that gut, which is that massive space. That’s actually where you’re interacting with the rest of the world. With all of these bacteria. And that is really where ZOE started.

Jonathon Wolf [00:02:48] So ZOE started with this amazing meeting that I had with Tim Spector and also my other co-founder, George, sort of five years ago. My background is really data science. So how can you collect very, very large amounts of data and use machine learning to try and create sort of individually personalised recommendations, which comes mainly from the internet, right? We’re used to going onto Google, you type anything you want, and it gives you this completely personalised answer or you’re on Instagram and you get, you know, the feed that is targeted to you. And I had just left my previous company. I wanted to do something that was more important. I’m surrounded by people like Justine, helping to make people healthier, do something valuable. I wanted to do something that mattered more. And I met Tim, and he’d been carrying out this amazing study on twins for now 30 years, the largest in-depth study of any population in the world. And he’d got more and more interested in why twins were not the same, but were actually different. How was it that you could have two identical twins, one of them could get breast cancer and the other one didn’t. And yet they had exactly the same genes and they had exactly the same upbringing. And so 20 years ago, scientists would have said, that’s impossible, right? Those are the two things that shape you. So how can that happen? And he did more and more research with his team, and he came up with this sort of discovery there seemed to be two really important things that were different, even amongst identical twins. And that was the bacteria inside their guts, known as the gut microbiome. And the food they were eating, the nutrition. And these two were obviously very closely linked because what it turns out happens is the food that we eat is making it down into our gut, particularly the fibre. These bacteria are then consuming and creating all of these chemicals that then cross the gut wall into the blood and get to, you know, every cell in our body and help to really explain why we now know that the gut microbiome is so important for our health. So this was great. The challenge was, like much science Louise, which you’ll be familiar with, you know, there’s this sort of fantastic science. There was nothing he could actually tell me about what I should eat that was different from what you should eat. And so there was nothing you could apply that would make this useful. And I said, Look, that’s what machine learning is for. You know what, if we can collect enough data, we can then create a test that anyone could do at home. We could compare your test results with thousands and ultimately millions of other people, many of whom have done these very in-depth tests in a clinic and therefore give you this personalised recommendations that could actually improve your health. And as we’ve discovered more recently, can actually affect your energy, can actually affect your weight because it turns out all of these things were applied. And so we created ZOE and we actually did something really fun, which is we basically went off and created the largest in depth nutrition study in the world to go and get this first data. And that’s where we were very happily two years ago, when suddenly COVID hit and Tim gave me a call and said, ‘Look, I’ve got this really clever idea about how we can use all the technology that we’ve been developing for the nutrition app over the last three years in order to try and understand what are the links with past history, and we can do it for my twins.’ And I normally say to him, ‘No’, because he comes up with five new ideas every week. I’m normally like no we’ve got to stay focussed but was like, ‘This is really important, I agree we should do this, but if we’re going to do it, you know, we could do it for everybody, you know. If you build this back end – we’re good at engineering – let’s not just do it for your 12,000 twins. Let’s do it for everybody and we end up doing it in the U.K. and the U.S. and Sweden. And amazingly, we launched it. We built it for five days, nobody slept, and we had a million people doing it after 24 hours and passed more than four and a half million people. And even today, about a million people are using it every week, which is which is really amazing.

Dr Louise Newson [00:06:12] Incredible. And obviously, I’m not a technical person at all. But having developed the balance app, I’ve learnt a lot in a very short space of time and it’s all about having the right people doing the right jobs, obviously, and reaching the right audience as well, which is key, which is clearly what you’ve done, but I’m very interested in nutrition, which is something – I don’t know about Justine – but I had very little training on and I had no training about the menopause is as a undergraduate.

Jonathon Wolf [00:06:37] I was going to say, Louise, I’m going to ask you that question. I like to ask this of all doctors in every country, how many days training in nutrition did you have in your, you know, decade long training to be a doctor?

Dr Louise Newson [00:06:48] Well, you know, isn’t that interesting? I had quite a lot in biochemistry, so we learnt about fat, we learnt about protein, we learnt about carbohydrate as three very separate things. I think we learnt that fat was really bad actually and carbohydrate was good, and it took me a long time actually to realise that that isn’t quite right and there’s some fats that are essential. And then I think I read Robert Lustig’s book ‘Fat Chance, the hidden truth’, actually, which I’m sure you know who I recently connected with Robert. He’s amazing. That was in 2012. I graduated in 1994, so you can do the sums. That’s quite a few years later, and that was a real pivotal moment for me thinking about nutrition. And then I read Tim’s book, ‘Diet Myth’ and I thought, ‘Wow, this is blowing my mind. Actually, what are these gut microbes that everyone’s talking about?’ And he talked about his son having eaten McDonald’s for not as many days as the experiment could have been because his son felt so bad and his gut microbes really reduced. And then I sort of thought a lot of times with medicine, you’re on this hamster wheel and you just do things because that’s the way you’ve been taught. And I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a very portfolio career. I’ve had done lots of part time jobs, so I’ve ended up working far more than full time, but it gives me time to breathe. And also I’m very evidence based, so. But you only know what you’ve been taught. And so going back to the basics, getting back to thinking gut microbes, I remember being in the Eden project many years ago with my children when they were very young and they were talking, there was something there about microbes, and I was thinking, Really, what? What is this? What is this? And it all makes so much sense, and I’m very interested in holistic care. I’m very interested in treating the whole person. And as Justine knows, in medicine, you can get very focused and as you say, like for her, the skin. But the skin is a vehicle. The skin is another organ that interacts with every single organ. We have the bloodstream going through the skin. So if we don’t have the right nutrients, the right chemicals in our blood, the skin is going to look awful, right? So – and it’s the same with every other organ. But very much in medicine, you’re a cardiologist, you only deal with the heart. You’re a neurologist and you deal with the brain. Well, actually, for me as a menopause specialist, hormones get everywhere. So actually, how can I ignore a part? And then it’s looking at how our hormones interact with each other, what influences them? And we know all about how the hormones work together. So if I’m more stressed my stress hormones, my cortisol, my adrenaline will go up, which will probably change my requirement for my estrogen. But also what I eat is really important as well, not just because I’ll feel better if I eat healthily, but it will interfere with my hormones. And then mental health is such a huge thing in the menopause. We know mental health and gut microbes is really important. We don’t know enough about it, but we know how important serotonin is and it’s just incredible. The more you read about it, the more it makes sense. But actually, as you know, it’s very frustrating because there isn’t really good evidence. And so a lot of people will say, Well, where’s the evidence? Where’s the evidence? And so the work you’re doing is hopefully going to – well it has already hasn’t it – unmasked often a lot more questions and answers, but that’s what good research does. But it is showing the importance of the gut microbes and also about individualization, because we’ve all seen people, whether they’re friends or patients, in my case, who eat the same amount, exercise the same amount, but their body shape is very different, and some of it is genetics. But some of it isn’t.

Jonathon Wolf [00:10:18] That’s right. And actually just on that. I mean, I think what’s really interesting is, you know, I was totally brought up to believe that either that’s just not true, right? A calorie is a calorie. You hear a lot of this and by the way, for your listeners, it’s just absolutely not true. Like, the science is totally clear on this. So the idea that food is just calories and calories in minus calories out determines whether you put on weight is not true. But then the other thing you hear is, ‘well it’s all genetics’. You know, ‘my friend is really lucky, you know, she’s got really good genetics compared to me’. I think the bad side of that is it basically says there’s nothing you can do about it, right? It’s like, well, it’s you know, it’s your genes, your genes you were given by your parents. There’s nothing you can do. And I think what’s really exciting about the first paper that we published in Nature Medicine out of the first study, was discovery that although genes do affect the way that we respond to food, it’s much less than people expected. And so what we see is actually the gut microbiome is more important in terms of those responses. And I think what’s exciting about that, Louise, is that your gut microbiome isn’t fixed. So this is one of the big discoveries that has been made over the last five to 10 years. So it’s not completely changeable, but actually, by changing what we eat, we can actually change our gut microbiome. And that means that the way that we respond to food itself can change. And therefore, this idea that, yes, everybody is unique and responds differently to food that is very heavily driven by these bacteria inside you. But it also means that you’re not just stuck right. There’s not like saying, ‘you know what? It’s too bad. You’re just the sort of person who has this bad responses’. Actually, by changing diet and if you can understand sort of the right food for you at this stage in your life, and I’m sure we’ll talk a bit more about this exciting new paper looking at menopause and how that ties into nutrition. Then I think that’s actually the most positive thing that’s come out of this research over the last five years.

Dr Louise Newson [00:11:59] It’s so true, and I also think a lot about I mean, I’m very interested in epigenetics and how you can change our genes according to external influences. Obviously, I’m very interested in estrogen, but also, you know, gut microbes, I’m sure you know, that balance will change our genetics, some of our genetic makeup as well, which will affect our metabolism and our health and inflammation in the body and so forth. But it’s also knowing how soon we can do this as well, because I’ve got three children and I always worry about their future health, but also about their nutrition. And it’s very easy when people are young to eat rubbish because they’ll always look fantastic. But you don’t know what’s going on inside. And the whole reversibility, I think, is really key because as so many people that just say, ‘Oh well, that’s just the way it is. My mother put on weight and she was in her 50s, and this is the way I am’. And then you look at their diet and they say, ‘well I am eating really healthily. I eat, you know, lasagne for supper or I’ll eat some chicken’ or whatever. And when you ask them actually what they’re eating, it sounds quite good on paper. But when you say to them, ‘Well, are you making it?’ ‘No no no I’m buying chicken in a readymade sauce which is obviously loaded with sugar. And then I have yoghurt for breakfast and I say, ‘Well, what yoghurt?’ I have yoghurt for breakfast, but I have full fat Greek yoghurt with some fruit and homemade granola, and they will eat some bought granola with a low-fat strawberry yoghurt. And it’s all about those little things make a massive difference to our gut microbes, don’t they? We know that. But other people will be able to get away with eating those things and never put on a pound. So I think the work you’re doing to individualise is going to be very important, isn’t it?

Jonathon Wolf [00:13:42] Well, we obviously think so, but I think that there’s two things in that story, which I think are really interesting and almost want to separate because one is the difference between individuals at any point in time. And the other thing is just the changes in our own bodies over time. And I think we’ve sort of seen those really clearly in these studies. And that’s why we’ve come to this realisation that if you want to get this personalised advice, you need to start with the tests. You actually need to understand what’s going on with your blood sugar. You need to understand what’s going on with your microbiome. We can do a lot of prediction from this about what’s going on with sort of inflammatory responses and blood fats and things like this. And that’s because everybody is really different. So we see just this extraordinary difference in what happens in our bodies in the hours after we eat food. And I think one of the things that you know has been a big discovery for me is what is actually going on when you eat food, why does it matter? And it turns out that there’s this extraordinary series of events that happen after you start to eat, which Louise as a doctor you’re familiar with, but it’s not something we talk about. We talk about food as if it’s like calories and it’s fat and it’s carbohydrate. But actually, what’s really important is what they call postprandial responses, which just basically means what happens in the hours after you eat. And so if you eat a meal, and meals normally have a whole mix of fat and protein and carbohydrates, but a lot of very, very complex structures, we now know there’s more than 50000 chemicals in the foods that we eat. What happens is that your blood sugar and your blood fat change in the hours after you eat, and that’s completely normal. You know, it’s normal to have a rise, and if you didn’t have any blood sugar, then we’d all be dead I think in, you know, 30 seconds, our brain would be in trouble, right? But what we see is that if those rises become too high, if they’re prolonged for too long, then our body really struggles and we start to have these inflammatory responses and that these I think we now understand, are sort of the things that happen day after day, week after week, month after month, which starts to lead to these chains of sort of more serious problems, which can lead both to long term ill health, whether it’s, you know, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, but also affect weight. And really interestingly what we see as well, also in fact, things like energy and mood and the microbiome, it turns out, is central in this because it’s really controlling the way in which we respond to food, and therefore, if you have very different bacteria, your ability to deal with this food is really different. So you can have two different people eating the same meal. And we saw this with twins – you can have two identical twins eating exactly the same meal, and one of them might have this massive blood sugar spike, which you can still see going on after two hours. And the other one just has it like a little bump and it comes back down. So I think that’s helping you to understand why the food we eat is so important because it means you know, you’re talking about the yoghurts. You know, they both say yoghurt on the tin, right? So that sounds really straightforward. But one of them is this product which has been fermented by bacteria. That’s your full fat Greek yoghurt. I can see you’ve been looking into this, which has really transformed the milk, which for most people is not a great food into this yoghurt, which actually tends to be much, much healthier. The bacteria have really changed the structure, but then this low fat thing has been all of this industrialisation and all food is processed, but this is like super-processed. Take all the fat out. That’s really weird, and they stick all the sugar back in. And of course, it’s nothing like a yoghurt at all anymore. It’s a bit more like drinking a Coca-Cola, right? And we know that’s not so good for you. And so these have these very different responses. This all sounds very complicated. And so what ZOE is about is saying, ‘do you know what? You don’t want to be – you know, you can’t be an expert to understand all of this yourself. What you want to do is say, ‘OK, how can I do a test, understand my own body’ and then actually have sort of an app and a programme that helps you to understand just for you exactly how you respond to food and how you can sort of tweak and change your diet to improve your health.

Dr Louise Newson [00:17:20] Yeah. And I think I’m very interested in what’s called metabolic syndrome. So this is like a pre-diabetes, you know? It’s like almost (for those listening) once you have diabetes, it’s not too late, but it’s a disease with health risks and everything else. No one wants diabetes. So often you have this sort of pre-diabetic state metabolic syndrome. It’s a bit like the difference between a heart attack and high blood pressure. You don’t want raised blood pressure at all, but if you had raised blood pressure, that’s the time to treat it so you don’t get a heart attack. But with metabolic syndrome, it’s associated with other conditions, and we think a lot of it is due to inflammation in the body. So our body needs some inflammation to protect us from disease. But if our inflammatory cells don’t work as well, they’re switched on to cause this toxic almost, inflammation in the body, leading to metabolic syndrome also leading to other diseases such as osteoporosis, dementia, clinical depression is thought to be a metabolic disease and a lot of cancers as well. For those of you who’ve listened to the podcast before you know these conditions are associated with low estrogen as well, and we know low estrogen causes this pro-inflammatory state. Menopause and a perimenopausal women have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. So all these, I’m sure when I’m talking about going back to basics, just putting one and one together and making two, they’re all going to be associated. And there will be some ways we can control this with our diet, our exercise, our sleep is really important as well for this inflammatory process. But actually, a lot of this can’t be controlled without having the right hormones back. And so some of the research you are considering and looking at it aren’t you is with the menopause as well. And how estrogen has this effect.

Jonathon Wolf [00:19:00] Yeah. And let’s talk a bit about that. And you know, I’ll be honest, when I went into ZOE five years ago, I knew nothing about the menopause, which is not going to shock you, Louise. Because one of the things that has most shocked me is how little it’s talked about that despite the fact that it’s happened to my mother, you know, it’s going to happen to my wife. It will happen to my daughter, happens to 51 percent of the population. It’s this is extrordi – I mean, we could talk about this all day, right? – how amazingly under-discussed it is. But it wasn’t something that I’d really thought about at all, honestly, Louise. But what it’s turned out is that we are now carrying out the largest study in the world looking at menopause and in-depth metabolic responses, nutrition and microbiome. And we’re just seeing these amazing results. And I think, you know, for many of your listeners, it may be obvious and I know for you, Louise, it’s obvious. But we’re just seeing this extraordinary change both immediately around menopause, but also more broadly in the sort of the five years before and five years afterwards. And I think, you know, the biggest thing which I think is really striking is, you know, this story we hear from our members over and over again, which is like, I feel my body has changed and the answer is your body really has changed. And if you go and look at, for example, these sorts of responses to food that I was talking about, you see that you might be eating a meal that you have eaten for 25 years and actually you had no problem with it whatsoever. And now actually, you’re starting to see these really big blood sugar spikes you’re seeing these really big blood fat spikes. Because actually, the whole way that your body’s metabolism is working now means you just can’t cope with what you could cope with before. And part of that, which is really interesting, is that on average, women are able to cope with these sorts of shocks from food much, much better than men in their 20s and 30s. We see this radical difference. And actually what’s happening sort of in the decade around menopause and really accelerated right at the point of menopause is that, sadly, women’s bodies sort of deteriorate and start to look a lot more like a man’s, which is just much worse. But that means that the sort of meals that were fine for you, right, and which means that you are not putting on weight, you were feeling fine, you weren’t causing these issues that, you know, leading towards a sort of metabolic diseases you’re talking about. Well, actually, if you just keep eating the same way as you did in your 30s, actually, you’re creating shock after shock after shock. But the good news is it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. It just means you need to understand, OK, you know, let me understand my body now. What does that mean about how I can adjust my food? And if you’re eating the sort of food in particular that’s supporting your microbiome, actually, they’re like your trillions of little helpers. And if you can eat the right foods for them, actually, I think they can put you in a really great place. So again, I think there’s a really positive message here because again, you can get a bit depressed talking about food sometimes, but actually, it’s meant to be fun. You can still eat whatever you want, and it’s about understanding together in totality, how do you put together something that works for who you are?

Dr Louise Newson [00:21:49] Absolutely. And I think the other thing, obviously for me, my hidden agenda for doing research with you guys as well is how estrogen, when it’s given back in the form of 17 beta estradiol, the natural body identical estrogen that we give through the skin as a patch, gel or spray, how that can reverse some of these changes as well. And that’s really important because for many years and even now, people still think of estrogen as something that causes breast cancer. We know that women who have estrogen have a lower risk of breast cancer and a lower risk of dying from breast cancer. And so estrogen is really important. It’s like trying to have your body run without thyroxine or without insulin without another hormone. It’s impossible, and that’s why all these diseases occur. But there’s very little really good studies looking at metabolic effects and health effects of estrogen because people have been so scared of estrogen for the last 20 years, which doesn’t make sense because young women are healthy and they have estrogen. And so we are designed to have estrogen our bodies. But wouldn’t it be great to show that some of these metabolic changes reverse with the right dose and type of estrogen? And again, that’s about individualisation. What I need in my HRT is different to my best friend or one of my patients because we’re all different, and so a lot of the work I’d love to do in the future is how do we individualise HRT the same way as diabetics. You know, people with diabetes have different doses of insulin, and that varies according to what they eat as well. And we know obviously, don’t we with diabetes, once people’s diets are better, they’re, often their requirements for insulin reduce.

Jonathon Wolf [00:23:28] Correct.

Dr Louise Newson [00:23:28] So everything works together. Our bodies do not work in isolation, they’re far more clever than we realise.

Jonathon Wolf [00:23:33] They’re incredibly complicated. But I think that, you know, just to pick up on what you’re saying, I think we’re very early in understanding the interactions between menopause and all these other factors that you’re talking about. It’s been incredibly understudied. And you know, our chief scientist, Sarah Berry, who’s been driving most of these studies, is the lead author on this paper that will be coming out shortly. You know, has discussed this with me quite a lot, right, about why is it? And her story is that actually just studying women in general in terms of these scientific studies, you know, they’re heavily understudied. So this is another area where far too much of this has been done on, you know, white men. And there are some reasons in science why that’s the case, because women again are much more complicated, right? So if you need to think about pre menopause and your monthly cycle, that has a profound impact on how your body is responding to almost everything. So if you want to try and understand something in particular, then suddenly like, well, how do I make sure that, you know, I have all these women who are at the same part of the cycle that’s more expensive, fundings really small, so it’d just be much simpler to use, men. And then suddenly you don’t understand. So instead of understanding half the population, you’re like, Oh, that’s all more complex. So we sort of shunt it aside. And I think menopause again is a good example of, well, that’s really complicated, right? It can be having all these effects. So let’s avoid that whole group of people, because we won’t be able to get enough people. And I think, you know, the whole point of what we’re trying to do at ZOE, is to say we’re trying to understand individual responses. Therefore, you need to collect very, very large amounts of data. And so, you know, we went from that first study with a thousand people, which is already huge, right, Louise, for a scientific study. We’re now on to PREDICT 3. We’re at nearly 20,000 people in that study and continuing to grow. And you know, we hope ultimately to be able to have millions of people participate in these studies. Everyone who joined ZOE has the ability to do that and therefore to start to unpick exactly what you’re describing. How do you start to understand the difference between people who are taking hormone replacement and aren’t, and understand what those differences are or as you’re describing, which is even more advanced and sounds, great, right? Like the levels of this and had you compared with other things about them in order to personalise. And I think, you know, this is the future of healthcare and medicine and you know. It sounds a bit crazy, but if think about it, we’re used to every day on the internet, right? Like it’s not crazy there to have this stuff personalised. We now have this ability to collect data through mobile phones through these tests you can do at home. And I think even today, you know, with what we’re doing right now, we’ll be launching in the UK in a few months time. You can already get something that really is personalised and which will give you a result that is different from everybody else. But it is also on a pathway. So, you know, if we think about things like the microbiome, I don’t want to oversell it. We don’t understand all the details of what’s going on. Just like we don’t understand all the details of how these hormones are interplaying in the menopause and what to do. But I think it’s a really exciting way to get this better and better. And I do think that it’s a profound change also in terms of talking about this. And I think, Louise, you’ve been very important as one of the people to talk about how important the menopause is. And, you know, it remains clearly not talked about enough and not investigated enough because we just see this over and over again from the people who are our members. It’s just like, what a profound change it’s having in their lives and how sort of adrift they are in terms of like, really clear advice about what they can do in order to sort of reduce symptoms and make sure that their health and their weight and all these things actually continue to be in a good place?

Dr Louise Newson [00:27:00] Absolutely. And I think what’s very interesting with the work that I’m doing, the work we can hopefully do together and the work that you’re doing is, though, it’s about preventative medicine, ZOE’s about health care, not sick care. And you know, we know not just in the UK, but globally, healthcare systems are stretched. We treat disease, but we should be preventing disease. I really strongly believe that as physicians, we’re not just about helping people that are ill and we have a real responsibility, I think , certainly COVID’s made us really – well its made me and quite a few other people – very aware that the healthier you are, the less likely you are to get disease. We know from the data, don’t we? From deaths and mortality and severity of COVID, those people, sadly who have died are more likely to have had these inflammatory conditions, less likely to have a good immune system. But you can’t improve that overnight. It’s too late when the pandemic is here, it’s about how to optimise your health before so we can stay as fit and healthy. And we’re not draining the healthcare system and we’re just having healthier, happier lives, really. And it’s a multi-pronged approach, isn’t it?

Jonathon Wolf [00:28:09] I think that’s exactly right. One of the papers that we published through COVID was actually a study of more than a million people looking at their diets and then their outcomes when they actually caught COVID. And what we saw, which was really surprising to everybody, was that for the people who were eating the most gut-healthy food compared to the least healthy, we saw that they were 30% less likely to be hospitalised for COVID. And this was after adjusting for, you know, your weight and whether you had diabetes and all these other things. So just diet alone was having this profound impact. And that’s really the first study that we’re aware of because of the scale we’re able to do that separated it. And again, I think the positive story is that means there’s a lot you can do, right? That isn’t ‘I’m just stuck with the past’. Yeah, and it’s not just about saying I need to lose weight, right? So this is just improving your diet without any change in weight. And I think the good news is and these are diets that aren’t miserable. This isn’t about calorie restriction. This isn’t about eating things which you couldn’t bear, it’s about shifting towards something that’s better. And I think you mentioned the beginning. We’re just launching this new podcast, ‘ZOE Science and Nutrition’ and a lot of what we’re trying to do there is bring in different experts, people like you, Louise, and many others to talk about the ways in which the latest research can be translated into things that people can do at home. And I think what’s exciting is that, you know, across many different areas of sort of scientific research, they’re all of these great discoveries, which I think are a long way ahead of what most of us know and telling us quite practical things about what we can do. And I think I’m quite excited about this podcast because it’s been sort of my own personal journey of discovery over the last five years, getting to meet lots of brilliant people like you and then just trying to make that available in a way that’s understandable because, you know, the reality is a scientific paper is designed to be totally incomprehensible to any normal person. I think you’re trained on that, aren’t you Louise that like, if it’s too easy to understand, you have to write in a different way. Isn’t that the point?! So we’re trying to do the reverse and say, ‘well, how about you just trying to explain this in regular language in terms of things that people can do’ and cut through in a place where there is so much like, you know, non-science sort of babble, things that are just profoundly untrue, right? That we hear. And how can we try and provide, you know, just what is the latest view coming from science? So I’m excited about that. And, you know, menopause and sort of issues around that is one of the key areas that we want to talk about because it’s just such a huge topic and it’s so under-discussed.

Dr Louise Newson [00:30:32] So this is music to my ears. So thank you very much, and so hopefully I can invite you back in not too distant future so we can discuss more about some results. And so, I’m really grateful for your work because it’s going to have a big impact on future health and wellbeing, so I’m very grateful for your time today, Jonathan. So just before we end, could you just maybe give three – there’s always three take home tips as many of the listeners know – but just three reasons why people would be interested in downloading ZOE app. What are the three things I would benefit from, from downloading the app?

Jonathon Wolf [00:31:04] Oh, fantastic. Well, I think that the first is understanding your own body, so it’s the ability to do this test and understand how your body responds rather than anybody else’s. The second is the support to actually understand how to make the change. So there’s a programme supported by coaches that helps you to understand how do I apply this to your own life? And the third thing is that it turns out that this is, you know, it’s not just about dealing with health that’s clearly critical. And, you know, we all want to make sure that we live as long as possible, a healthy life and be in a good place with our children and we hope eventually our grandchildren. But actually, what we’re seeing is these amazing impacts on energy. So more than 80% of people who are following their personalised programme are actually seeing more energy within three months, and they’re losing weight as well. So this is like this really exciting short term responses, which is not going to be a surprise to you, right? Because you’re talking about the way that these things are all interlinked. But I think for us, was amazing. We were like, well, we were just trying to sort of really improve long term health and seeing these short term impacts has been very exciting. So we’re excited to be launching the product in the next few months in the UK. It’s already available in the US, and I hope that some of your listeners will gain something from it.

Dr Louise Newson [00:32:13] I’m sure they will. So thank you so much for your time today. It’s been really enlightening.

Jonathon Wolf [00:32:17] It’s a pleasure Louise, thank you so much. Bye bye.

Dr Louise Newson [00:32:20] For more information about the perimenopause and menopause, please visit my website or you can download the free balance app, which is available to download from the App Store or from Google Play.


ZOE’s co-founder, Jonathan Wolf, on the future of nutrition science

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