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Tim Spector

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Tim Spector
BornJuly 1958 (age 65–66)
Alma materSt Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Professor of genetic epidemiology
  • science writer
  • co-founder of Zoe Ltd[1]

Timothy David Spector OBE FMedSci (born 1958) is a British epidemiologist, medical doctor, and science writer, working on the relationship between nutrition, the gut microbiome, and health. He argues against low-fat diets and fad diets,[2][3] and instead advocates for a Mediterranean-style diet that is heavily plant-based, high in fibre, limits ultra-processed foods, and includes a diversity of plants.[4][5][2]



Spector was born in North London[6] in July 1958.[7] His mother was an Australian physiotherapist and competitive swimmer; his father was Walter Graham Spector (1924–1982), an eminent pathologist.

After being privately educated at University College School, London, Spector trained in medicine at St Bartholomew's hospital medical school.

He rose to the position of consultant rheumatologist, before turning to genetic epidemiology, the study of genetic factors in health and disease, in 1992.[6]

Spector is professor of genetic epidemiology and director of the TwinsUK registry at King's College London.[8] He is a specialist in twin studies, genetics, epigenetics, and microbiome and diet.[9][10]

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to the Covid-19 response.[11] He was also appointed Senior Investigator at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).[12]

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".[6]

The Diet Myth


Spector's book The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat was published in 2015.[13] The book explains how gut microbiotas interact with different dietary habits and how the gut microbiome can determine health and longevity.[14][15][16][17] It received positive reviews in science journals.[16][18] 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.[2][5]

Spoon Fed


In his book Spoon Fed (2020), Spector discusses how microbes may affect mental health.[19]

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.[20] By July 2020 the app had more than 4 million users,[21] and the next month the project received grant funding from the Department of Health and Social Care.[22] Development and operation of the app involves Zoe Global Limited (now Zoe Limited), a nutrition advice company co-founded by Spector in 2017.[20][23]

Spector became the public face of the study, releasing periodic summaries via YouTube from June 2020 onwards.[24]

Selected publications

  • Food for Life: The New Science of Eating Well. Random House. 2022. ISBN 978-1-4735-5226-5.
  • Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We've Been Told About Food is Wrong. Random House. 2020. ISBN 978-1-4735-7640-7.[25]
  • The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat (1st ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2015. ISBN 978-0-297-60919-3.
  • Identically Different: Why We Can Change Our Genes. Abrams Books. 2012. ISBN 978-1-4683-1040-5.[26]
  • Spector, Tim D.; Snieder, Harold; MacGregor, Alex J. (1999). Advances in Twin and Sib-pair Analysis. Greenwich Medical Media. ISBN 978-1-84110-004-3.


  1. ^ "About Us". Zoe. 22 March 2024. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b c Spector, Tim (Spring 2016). "Advice From the Experts: The Diet Myth" (PDF). InTouch. London: King's College London. p. 29. OCLC 30017439. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  3. ^ "Advice against eating fat was wrong. It is time the experts admitted it". Spectator Health. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Geddes, Linda (15 May 2022). "Go with your gut: scientist Tim Spector on why food is not just fuel". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  5. ^ a b "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.
  6. ^ a b c Murgia, Madhumita (31 July 2021). "Tim Spector: the data explorer who uncovered vital clues to Covid". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Appointments: Timothy David SPECTOR". Companies House. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  8. ^ "Tim Spector - Research Portal". King's College London. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  9. ^ Jozuka, Emiko (27 May 2016). "Ditch the diet if you want to lose weight says genetic expert Tim Spector". Wired. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "No. 63142". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B67.
  12. ^ "Tim Spector the Author Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK". www.tim-spector.co.uk. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  13. ^ "The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  14. ^ "Magical microbes – how to feed your gut". The Guardian. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  15. ^ "'The Diet Myth,' 'The Good Gut' and 'The Hidden Half of Nature'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Handysides, Stuart. (2016). Books: The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat. British Journal of General Practice 66 (648): 378–379.
  17. ^ "Tim Spector: Go with your gut". British Medical Journal. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Geddes, Linda (15 May 2022). "Go with your gut: Scientist Tim Spector on why food is not just fuel". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  20. ^ a b Wakefield, Jane (25 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Tracking app aims for one million downloads". BBC News. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "Zoe Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  24. ^ "ZOE: Videos". YouTube. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  25. ^ Bee Wilson. "Spoon-Fed by Tim Spector review – food myths busted". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  26. ^ Peter Forbes. "Book review – Identically Different: Why You Can Change Your Genes by Tim Spector". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2017.