Forget counting calories and crunching kale. The key to losing weight is to eat cheese and chocolate and drink red wine, a leading scientist said last night.
Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said that everything we think we know about diets is wrong. And that rather than depriving ourselves of our favourite foods, we should make time to eat them. Cheese, chocolate and red wine are all on the menu, as are nuts, coffee and dairy products. The professor’s unorthodox advice stems from his belief that successful dieting isn’t down to calorie counting but the bugs living in a person’s gut. Although you might not realise it, the average human stomach is home to around 4lb of bacteria. Some of these aid in the digestion of our food, others are involved in appetite and fat storage. But not all are helpful. Professor Spector says that by eating the right foods, we can cultivate more good bacteria, and so stay slim and healthy. Speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival, he said: ‘We ingest these microbes and they end up in our gut, where they diversify with the new foods we introduce over the years. ‘The more diverse foods we eat, the more varieties of microbes in our bodies, which makes us healthier.’ Recommending dairy products, he said: ‘Regular cheese eaters actually have less heart disease than those who don’t eat cheese, contrary to what your GP says. ‘Unpasteurised cheese is one of the best things you can eat, because it is one of the richest sources of living healthy microbes and fungi. ‘Probiotic foods such as yoghurt are rich in microbes and should be enjoyed regularly, as they increase our microbe levels.’ Other foods provide fodder for good bacteria to grow and thrive. Professor Spector said: ‘Some foods such as oils, nuts and seeds act as a fertiliser for microbes. ‘This is why many Mediterranean peoples longer than Brits, because they enjoy a diet full of olive oil, amongst other things like cheese and salads. ‘This is because they contain high levels of polyphenols which microbes feed on, and in turn makes us slim.’ Our gut bacteria also enjoy chocolate and red wine almost as much as we do. However, junk food, while tasty, plays no part in the professor’s diet plan. He says that fatty, sugary foods kill of helpful bacteria, while allowing potentially toxic ones to thrive. Proof of this comes from an experiment in which he put his son Tom on a diet of McDonald’s food for ten days. Professor Spector said: ‘Tom’s gut microbes had been devastated — 1,400 different species, accounting for 40 per cent of his gut diversity, had been lost. ‘Microbes are not only essential to how we digest food; they control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins. ‘It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.’ Other evidence comes from his own studies on twins, which have shown gut bugs help explain why one identical twin struggles with their weight, while the other doesn’t. Professor Spector, who describes his work in detail in his book The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat, ‘Ultimately, everyone should treat their gut as a beautiful English garden. The more varieties of microbes and foods we eat, the more flowers our gardens have and the healthier they look. ‘Throw in some probiotics like yoghurts and cheese, along with nuts, seeds and oils to nourish the microbes, and our gardens will be flourishing. ‘Avoid processed foods and they are limited in microbe levels because they are mainly made up of chemicals. ‘And enjoy some cheese, chocolate and red wine.’]]>