More articles Friday 21 August 2015 7:30pm
Faeces Better Than DNA Profiling for Judging Good Health
AN analysis of the microbes in a person’s faeces will give a better idea of the health problems they risk than a profile of their DNA, a leading epidemiologist has said. Prof Tim Spector, author of the groundbreaking book The Diet Myth, told an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, that it was the condition and diversity of the microbes in the human gut were instrumental in weight gain and overall health.
What existed in someone’s guts, he said, offered greater insight into a person’s future health than genetic screening. “Give me a sample of your poo, and I can tell much better what your health risks are in the future than a sample of DNA, and I’m a geneticist,” he said. “So that goes for pretty much everything, all the common diseases. We’ve been spending billions on finding genetic predictions of disease, but actually the secret may lie elsewhere.”
He added that traditional advice about doing more and reducing fatty foods and faddy diets cutting out specific food types were ineffectual, if not actually counterproductive. Spector said the current trend in particular of minimising the diversity in diet was bad for long-term health and weight loss. The body contains 100 trillion microbes 99.9 per cent of which, rather than being toxic to the body as previously thought, were now known be beneficial to health. Spector emphasised that each person’s microbial population was unique in its makeup, which mean that it was impossible to create a single universal treatment for people.
“The one key thing we have found is that the more diverse the microbes are in your gut, the more different species there are, the healthier you are,” he said. “Studies have shown that the fat unhealthy person has less diversity than the thin healthy person. “The analogy is a bit like looking after a garden, one that is abandoned has bad soil, the other lush one has everything working together, because these microbes work together as a great community.”
In setting out what sort of diet will help maintain microbial diversity, he said that the old-fashioned concept of Mediterranean diet, high in cheese, oils and lots of fresh vegetables, particularly those high in fibre, was the ideal.
Spector also attacked the use of vitamin supplements, stating that they had not been shown to have any benefit, that people were being conned by a multi-billion pound industry and advised the audience to “throw out that rubbish and start eating real food.”