Tim Spector

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Tim Spector

BornJuly 1958 (age 65)
Alma mater St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Occupation(s)Professor of genetic epidemiology, science writer

Timothy David Spector OBE FMedSci (born 1958) is a British epidemiologist, medical doctor, and science writer.



Spector was born in North London [1] in July 1958. [2] He trained in medicine and rose to the position of consultant rheumatologist, before turning to genetic epidemiology, the study of genetic factors in health and disease, in 1992. [1]

Spector is professor of genetic epidemiology and director of the TwinsUK registry at King's College London. [3] He is a specialist in twin studies, genetics, epigenetics, and microbiome and diet. [4] [5]

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to the Covid-19 response. [6] He was also appointed Senior Investigator at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). [7]

Twin studies

Spector's team at King's College have, since 1992, enrolled 15,000 sets of identical twins in the TwinsUK studies, leading to many studies on the heritability of diseases and disorders. Spector states the goal is "to understand nature versus nurture". [1]

The Diet Myth

Spector's book The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat was published in 2015. [8] The book explains how gut microbiotas interact with different dietary habits and how the gut microbiome can determine health and longevity. [9] [10] [11] [12] It received positive reviews in science journals. [11] [13] Spector argues for a diet that increases gut microbe diversity. To do this he recommends increasing fibre content, avoiding junk food and ultra-processed foods, and experimenting with different fresh foods. [14] [15]

Spector has argued against low-fat diets and fad diets. [14] [16] He recommends a varied high-fibre Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of nuts and vegetables. [14] [16] [15]

Spoon Fed

In his book Spoon Fed (2020), Spector discusses how microbes may affect mental health. [17]

COVID Symptom Study

In March 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, Spector made use of twins already taking part in a genetic study to begin an investigation of COVID-19 symptoms. Working with researchers at King's College, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals, an app used by twins to record nutrition was used as the basis for the COVID Symptom Study app to allow members of the public to make a daily record of their symptoms and state of health. [18] By July 2020 the app had more than 4 million users, [19] and the next month the project received grant funding from the Department of Health and Social Care. [20] Development and operation of the app involves Zoe Global Limited (now Zoe Limited), a nutrition advice company co-founded by Spector in 2017. [18] [21]

Spector became the public face of the study, releasing periodic summaries via YouTube from June 2020 onwards. [22]

Selected publications

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human microbiome</span> Microorganisms in or on human skin and biofluids

The human microbiome is the aggregate of all microbiota that reside on or within human tissues and biofluids along with the corresponding anatomical sites in which they reside, including the skin, mammary glands, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lung, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, biliary tract, and gastrointestinal tract. Types of human microbiota include bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and viruses. Though micro-animals can also live on the human body, they are typically excluded from this definition. In the context of genomics, the term human microbiome is sometimes used to refer to the collective genomes of resident microorganisms; however, the term human metagenome has the same meaning.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Healthy diet</span> Type of diet

A healthy diet is a diet that maintains or improves overall health. A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, macronutrients such as protein, micronutrients such as vitamins, and adequate fibre and food energy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gut microbiota</span> Community of microorganisms in the gut

Gut microbiota, gut microbiome, or gut flora, are the microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses, that live in the digestive tracts of animals. The gastrointestinal metagenome is the aggregate of all the genomes of the gut microbiota. The gut is the main location of the human microbiome. The gut microbiota has broad impacts, including effects on colonization, resistance to pathogens, maintaining the intestinal epithelium, metabolizing dietary and pharmaceutical compounds, controlling immune function, and even behavior through the gut–brain axis.

<i>Bacteroides</i> Genus of bacteria

Bacteroides is a genus of Gram-negative, obligate anaerobic bacteria. Bacteroides species are non endospore-forming bacilli, and may be either motile or nonmotile, depending on the species. The DNA base composition is 40–48% GC. Unusual in bacterial organisms, Bacteroides membranes contain sphingolipids. They also contain meso-diaminopimelic acid in their peptidoglycan layer.

Dysbiosis is characterized by a disruption to the microbiome resulting in an imbalance in the microbiota, changes in their functional composition and metabolic activities, or a shift in their local distribution. For example, a part of the human microbiota such as the skin flora, gut flora, or vaginal flora, can become deranged, with normally dominating species underrepresented and normally outcompeted or contained species increasing to fill the void. Dysbiosis is most commonly reported as a condition in the gastrointestinal tract.

William R. Davis is a Milwaukee-based American cardiologist, low-carbohydrate diet advocate and author of health books known for his stance against "modern wheat", which he labels a "perfect, chronic poison."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human virome</span> Total collection of viruses in and on the human body

The human virome is the total collection of viruses in and on the human body. Viruses in the human body may infect both human cells and other microbes such as bacteria. Some viruses cause disease, while others may be asymptomatic. Certain viruses are also integrated into the human genome as proviruses or endogenous viral elements.

Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) are carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion by a host's metabolism, and are made available for gut microbes, as prebiotics, to ferment or metabolize into beneficial compounds, such as short chain fatty acids. The term, ‘‘microbiota-accessible carbohydrate’’ contributes to a conceptual framework for investigating and discussing the amount of metabolic activity that a specific food or carbohydrate can contribute to a host's microbiota.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Microbiome</span> Microbial community assemblage and activity

A microbiome is the community of microorganisms that can usually be found living together in any given habitat. It was defined more precisely in 1988 by Whipps et al. as "a characteristic microbial community occupying a reasonably well-defined habitat which has distinct physio-chemical properties. The term thus not only refers to the microorganisms involved but also encompasses their theatre of activity". In 2020, an international panel of experts published the outcome of their discussions on the definition of the microbiome. They proposed a definition of the microbiome based on a revival of the "compact, clear, and comprehensive description of the term" as originally provided by Whipps et al., but supplemented with two explanatory paragraphs. The first explanatory paragraph pronounces the dynamic character of the microbiome, and the second explanatory paragraph clearly separates the term microbiota from the term microbiome.

Sarkis Mazmanian is an American medical microbiologist who has served as a professor at the California Institute of Technology since 2006. He is currently the Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, and a board member of Seed. Prior to this, Mazmanian was affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago. In 2012, Mazmanian was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his pioneering work on the human microbiome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aseem Malhotra</span> British cardiologist and writer

Aseem Malhotra is a controversial British cardiologist, public health campaigner, author, and advocate against the use of COVID vaccines. He campaigns for people to reduce sugar in their diet, promotes a low-carb and high-fat diet, and encourages the reduction of medical overprescribing. He was the first science director of Action on Sugar in 2014. He was listed as one of The Sunday Times 500 most influential people in 2016 and was twice recognized as one of the top fifty black and minority ethnic community member pioneers in the UK's National Health Service by the Health Service Journal. Malhotra is co-author of a book called The Pioppi Diet.

Christensenella is a genus of non-spore-forming, anaerobic, and nonmotile bacteria from the family Christensenellaceae. Belong to the order Clostridiales within the class Clostridia of the phylum Firmicutes. This family is described on the basis of phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA gene sequences.

B. Brett Finlay, is a Canadian microbiologist well known for his contributions to understanding how microbes cause disease in people and developing new tools for fighting infections, as well as the role the microbiota plays in human health and disease. Science.ca describes him as one of the world's foremost experts on the molecular understanding of the ways bacteria infect their hosts. He also led the SARS Accelerated Vaccine Initiative (SAVI) and developed vaccines to SARS and a bovine vaccine to E. coli O157:H7. His current research interests focus on pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella pathogenicity, and the role of the microbiota in infections, asthma, and malnutrition. He is currently the UBC Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and a Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories, Microbiology and Immunology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Co-director and Senior Fellow for the CIFAR Humans and Microbes program. He is also co-author of the book Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World and The Whole-Body Microbiome: How to Harness Microbes - Inside and Out - For Lifelong Health. Finlay is the author of over 500 publications in peer-reviewed journals and served as editor of several professional publications for many years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zoe Health Study</span> COVID-19 mobile research app

The Zoe Health Study, formerly the COVID Symptom Study, is a health research project of British company Zoe Limited which uses a mobile app that runs on Android and iOS.

Jennifer Beam Dowd is an American social scientist who is a Professor of Demography and Population Health and deputy director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford. Her research considers the social determinants of health and the relationship between infections and immune function. She is a member of Those Nerdy Girls, an all-woman team of public health researchers who are relaying COVID-19 information as part of Dear Pandemic.

Ruth E. Ley is a British-American microbial ecologist. Ley was an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University until 2018. She is currently serving as the director of the Microbiome Science Department at the Max Planck Institute for Biology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter J. Turnbaugh</span> American microbiologist (born c. 1981)

Peter J. Turnbaugh is a microbiologist and a professor at University of California, San Francisco. He is known for his research on the metabolic activities performed by the trillions of microbes that colonize humans' adult bodies. Turnbaugh and his research group use interdisciplinary approaches in preclinical models and human cohorts to study the mechanisms through which the gut microbiome influences nutrition and pharmacology.

Cathryn R. Nagler is an American immunologist. She is the Bunning Family Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Department of Pathology, and the college at the University of Chicago. Nagler is also the co-founder and president of the startup company ClostraBio, Inc.

William John Bulsiewicz better known as Dr. B., is an American board-certified gastroenterologist and author known for his exploration of the relationship between the gut microbiome and plant-based nutrition.

Dr Megan Rossi is a dietitian, nutritionist and author specialising in the microbiome. Her PhD in gut health received the Dean's Award top 5% for Outstanding Research Higher Degree.


  1. 1 2 3 Murgia, Madhumita (31 July 2021). "Tim Spector: the data explorer who uncovered vital clues to Covid" . Financial Times. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  2. "Appointments: Timothy David SPECTOR". Companies House. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  3. "Tim Spector - Research Portal, King's College, London". Kclpure.kcl.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  4. Jozuka, Emiko (27 May 2016). "Ditch the diet if you want to lose weight says genetic expert Tim Spector | WIRED UK". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  5. Elsa Vulliamy. "Want to to [sic] lose weight? Try eating chocolate and drinking wine" . The Independent . Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  6. "No. 63142". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B67.
  7. "Tim Spector the Author Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK". www.tim-spector.co.uk. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  8. "The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat". Publishers Weekly . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  9. "Magical microbes – how to feed your gut". The Guardian . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  10. "‘The Diet Myth,’ ‘The Good Gut’ and ‘The Hidden Half of Nature’". The New York Times . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  11. 1 2 Handysides, Stuart. (2016). Books: The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat. British Journal of General Practice 66 (648): 378–379.
  12. "Tim Spector: Go with your gut". British Medical Journal . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  13. Craig, Jeffrey M. (2016). Myths Microbes and Manipulation—Sensible Advice From the Diet Inspector: A Review of The Diet Myth by Tim Spector. Twin Research and Human Genetics 19 (4): 404-405.
  14. 1 2 3 "Advice from the Experts: Top Diet Tips from Professor Tim Spector". King's Alumni Community. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  15. 1 2 "From 30 vegetables a week to faecal transplants: Keeping your gut microbiome happy is the key to healthy eating". The Independent . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  16. 1 2 "Advice against eating fat was wrong. It is time the experts admitted it". Spectator Health. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  17. "Go with your gut: Scientist Tim Spector on why food is not just fuel". TheGuardian.com . 15 May 2022.
  18. 1 2 Wakefield, Jane (25 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Tracking app aims for one million downloads". BBC News. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  19. Wise, Jacqui (20 July 2020). "Covid-19: Study reveals six clusters of symptoms that could be used as a clinical prediction tool". BMJ. 370: m2911. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2911 . ISSN   1756-1833. PMID   32690476.
  20. "Expansion of national testing study will offer new COVID-19 insights". GOV.UK. Department of Health and Social Care. 19 August 2020. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  21. "Zoe Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  22. "ZOE: Videos". YouTube. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  23. Bee Wilson. "Spoon-Fed by Tim Spector review – food myths busted". The Guardian . Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  24. Peter Forbes. "Book review – Identically Different: Why You Can Change Your Genes by Tim Spector". The Guardian . Retrieved 8 July 2017.