Stop Counting Calories
Counting calories is a total waste of time, it’s bacteria in your gut that make you fat and finally, cheese, alcohol and chocolate can all help
Calorie-controlled diets don’t work.
Many of us may have suspected as much for years — but now there’s compelling evidence in a new book by Professor Tim Spector, a leading genetics expert at King’s College London.
What’s more, he’s offering a tantalising new theory about what really makes us fat — which could revolutionise our approach to weight loss.
As one of the scientists leading worldwide research into the trillions of bacteria living in our stomachs, Professor Spector believes they hold an amazing power over our health and moods — and that our modern diet may be having a negative effect on them.
His specialist area is twins. For more than two decades, he has been scientifically following 11,000 identical twins, examining information on their health, lifestyles and diet habits to discover the role of environmental and genetic factors in disease.
And one of his key findings will come as a shock to anyone who puts their faith in calorie-controlled dieting and the idea that the current obesity epidemic is simply down to people taking in more calories, and burning fewer through exercise, than previous generations did.
In fact, suggests Professor Spector, if you put identical twins on high-calorie diets, where they eat an extra 1,000 calories every day, after six weeks they’ll have completely different changes in weight.
Some will have gained as much as 13 kg, others as little as 4 kg — all on identical diets.
Clearly, calories aren’t the only factor.
Professor Spector believes it’s down to the bacteria in our gut. He has found that the type and variety of our gut bugs have an astonishing influence on many aspects of our health.
‘Microbes are not only essential to how we digest food,’ he says.
‘They also control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins, as well as keeping our immune system healthy.’
Our gut microbes are also linked to cardiovascular health, risk of diabetes and mental wellbeing.
In a book published this week, The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat, Professor Spector argues that, with the right regimen of diet and exercise, we can change our personal mix of gut bacteria to become one that keeps us happy, healthy — and lean.
For he also believes bacteria are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic. The root of the problem, he says, may be our modern diet and its effect on our gut bugs.
Compared with our ancestors, we have only a fraction of the diversity of microbial species living in our guts.