Here at True North, we’ve been loving the ZOE science and nutrition podcast – working primarily to translate complex studies into practical information for listeners.
The podcasts are released weekly, and they are either 40-minute installations or 20-minute ZOE 'shorts'. Both involve a discussion whereby Jonathan Wolf, ZOE’s host and co-founder, interviews an expert on a particular science and nutrition topic.
The format of the podcasts is such that they are digestible, engaging and informative. They begin with 'quickfire questions' where the interviewee can only answer yes or no, or a short sentence if absolutely necessary. These questions are cleverly designed to force the interviewee to provide an answer without relevant scientific context or nuance – something scientists don't take well to. At its core, though, these questions act as a springboard into the discussion, dispelling the myth that there is a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to your health. Instead, the ZOE podcast is a major proponent of personalised wellness solutions owing to the fact that the ZOE program is premised on just that.
The podcast accompanies the ZOE program, which is a platform that combines huge data sets, test kits, and nutrition plans to generate personalised health information. This growing dataset was born out of a 30-year-long study of twins, which found that different individuals, even identical twins, responded to the same foods differently, introducing the gut microbiome as pivotal to understanding and nurturing one’s health. The ZOE program thus accounts for the variability that often acts as a barrier to advising on nutrition and health while also driving data collection, contributing to the world's most extensive and ongoing nutrition science study.
The ZOE program requires users to complete at-home tests submitted for analysis and compared to a growing database of over 20,000 people. The ZOE team then employ patented techniques to generate a comprehensive report of insights into your body. This process continues over an extended period for prolonged monitoring of individual responses to food.
The ZOE app guides you through the program; it is even equipped with a motivational scoring system! A clever use of biometrics, handy for encouraging users to take command over their bodies and wellness, is perhaps an essential thing to do in the absence of a comprehensive healthcare system (see Robert Stern’s thoughts on this issue using the example of the NHS)
This links to different overarching themes underpinning the podcast: taking wellness into your own hands; seeing health and wellness as a process; and finally, the benefits of using big data to personalise wellness.
Two things have brought this concern to the fore: firstly, the onset of the covid-19 pandemic and the realisation that the healthier you are, the less likely you are to suffer badly from a disease. Secondly, scientists find genetics less significant than first thought regarding your metabolism, weight etc., and treating your gut microbiome has a much more considerable bearing. Both points give impetus to the fact that your health and well-being are your responsibility.
Louise Newson points out that physicians have a fundamental responsibility beyond just healing sick people, something that the NHS, for instance, is ill-equipped to contend with currently. Newson cites this indictment on our current systems of healthcare that fail to engage with the notion of holistic or preventative healthcare. Rightly or wrongly, optimising one’s own health falls on the shoulders of the individual and digital solutions can be a welcome monitoring method.
As mentioned above, it is increasingly popular for individuals to develop this kind of health and well-being data set, such as wearable devices. This concept is becoming increasingly embedded alongside the increased use of tracking apps, whether mood tracking or menstrual cycle tracking, all of which work to build a record that can be used to measure anomalies against. With resources like this available, apps are a way of incorporating preventative healthcare into formal healthcare systems. For instance, physicians are discussing the possibility of prescribing apps to generate a fully integrated record that requires patient participation to be the backbone of a trustworthy Health Service.
The overall messaging here is such that ZOE and similar applications are potentially changing the dynamic of the patient journey from being focused on the extremes of acute illness to being about the whole cycle of health.
Tim Spector, another of ZOE’s co-founders, was involved in a 30-year-long study into twins and the microbiome before the conception of Zoe. ZOE has transformed into an adaptation of this – providing extensive data on formerly understudied demographics and processes, such as menopause and the related in-depth metabolic responses.
Such insights provide a natural opportunity to develop bespoke formulations for HRT for peri-menopausal patients. The ability to track metabolic changes and responses to different hormone treatments also provides physicians with the appropriate data to take responsibility for delivering a more holistic and personalised service. These growing data sets thus provide an invaluable resource that can only be a force for good and can continue to plug the gaps presented by a current lack of understanding of the mysterious yet powerful gut microbiome, the keystone of the ZOE program.
At True North Labs, we believe in the power of wellness and the potential for big data to transform our understanding of nutrition and health. The ZOE program's mission to empower better health aligns with our values and ethos, making it an exciting and innovative space for us to explore and share with our audience. By promoting wellness as a journey and emphasising the importance of finding what works for everyone, we hope to inspire positive change in the healthcare landscape.
• There are too many good episodes to pick just one, but the conversation about supplements was interesting. Learning about mega or overdosing was educational.
Link to the main website: https://joinzoe.com
We have spoken about maany of the topics in our own voice and you can find some of them here
If you would like to speak to TNL about a wellness idea, please get in touch with a member of the team