We salute the OBE-garlanded go-to scientist for microbiome health, and architect of the COVID symptom tracker app.

Lockdown, though in some senses a leveller, has hardly been a universal experience. Some have found themselves furloughed with time on their hands. Others have worked throughout from home while, in the first wave at least, also home-schooling children; in other words, they had never been more stretched. But even as compared to these multi-taskers, one amongst us stands out for having been even more prolific than most: namely scientist Tim Spector.

Early on in the pandemic, in the days when no one knew quite what we were dealing with, Tim worked with King’s College London and his own Zoe Nutrition to create an COVID radar app, which continues to gather self-reported data from users designed to ‘help slow the outbreak and identify those at risk sooner’ in order to help the NHS. Pretty impressive stuff, no?

For most people, developing an app is a big enough deal to occupy them wholly. Not so Tim Spector who has, also during this time, brought out Spoon-Fed, as endorsed here by a happy-looking Emma Thompson. The book’s whole premise is to challenge everything we think we know about nutrition (thought that exercise will make you thin, or that calories measure how fattening a food is? Think again). And boy, does it do its job.

And yet that wasn’t all; far from it. Tim also took on a challenge to swim 2.3km in the sea and cycle 100km to raise money for Covid-19 research. And, since all that still clearly left him with time on his hands, he has meanwhile been busy developing Zoe, an at-home testing kit that informs users about their unique response to foods, giving personalised insights (it has launched in the US, and is due to do so in the UK later this year).

Tim’s major focus when it comes to nutritional health is on the idea that there is no such thing a recommended calorie allowance or a diet that will suit us all: simply, we all have different metabolic responses to the same foods based on our genetics. And amidst this wisdom, one thing remains gospel truth: a varied and diverse diet is best for our immune responses and overall health. Interested? When the hotly anticipated Zoe hits these shores, we’ll be certain to bring you more on it.

@tim.spector, for your efforts to help in the fight against Covid and for your fascinating nutritional insights: you’re a total hero.

By Nancy Alsop
January 2021


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.