Food is the best medicine, believes genetics expert Tim Spector. But most of the dietary advice that we are given is wrong, he claims. Eat plenty of fish, avoid saturated fat, never skip breakfast, cut down on processed meat, drink eight glasses of water a day – Spector himself believed all this just ten years ago but through his pioneering research he has been shocked to discover how little good evidence there is for many of our deeply-held beliefs about what we should eat and drink. And he lays the blame for this with the food industry which, like the tobacco industry in the 1960s and 70s, holds sway over scientific researchers, the medical establishment and policy makers, ensuring that the global food companies make fat profits – and we get fat.
In January 2022, Spector came to Intelligence Squared to share the findings of his latest bestselling book, Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Food Is Wrong. And he argued that the most dangerous myth of all about food is the assumption that we all respond to the same foods in the same way. In fact, as his research shows, how we react to a particular food depends on unique individual factors such as our genes, our body clocks and our gut microbiome – the community of trillions of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses that our bodies play host to. Eating a varied and diverse diet is the best way to keep our microbiome and ourselves healthy. But over the last 100 years our diet has become increasingly narrow, with 75 per cent of the world’s food generated from only 12 plants and five animal species, leaving the diversity of our agriculture and food culture under serious threat.
Spector was joined by Dan Saladino, the award-winning food writer and broadcaster, whose new book, Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, is a love letter to the world’s great food traditions and a wake-up call to protect the planet’s genetic biodiversity before it is too late. They discussed what steps we can all take to improve our own health and that of the natural world around us.
‘The nutrition revolution is well underway and Tim Spector is one of the visionaries leading the way. His writing is illuminating and so incredibly timely’ – Yotam Ottolenghi
‘Will actually help you decide what to add to your next grocery shop… This is one of the clearest and most accessible short nutrition books I have read: refreshingly open-minded, deeply informative and free of faddish diet rules’ – Bee Wilson, The Guardian
‘Dan Saladino writes about global good culture as urgently and compellingly as he broadcasts on The Food Programme. He makes a brilliant case that the diversity of our food culture is inextricably linked to the biodiversity of our environment, and therefore the future of our food and IS the future of our planet. We’d all do well to take that on board.’ – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
‘For anyone interested in Darwin, world power, and life itself, read on.’ – Cerys Matthews