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The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,573 ratings  ·  152 reviews

We are all increasingly bewildered by the simple question of what to eat. Despite advice from experts, governments and dieticians about the dangers of too much fat, sugar, protein and lack of exercise, our nutrition - and the global obesity crisis - is getting worse.

Why can one person eat a certain meal and gain weight and another eat exactly the same food and lose

Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published May 14th 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Boy Blue Basically, eat the Mediterranean diet. Or follow Michael Pollan's advice "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

In a day this would look like

Basically, eat the Mediterranean diet. Or follow Michael Pollan's advice "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

In a day this would look like

- Skip it if you can, if not, some sort of low sugar museli, oats, or granola, with an organic yoghurt on top, with fresh fruit.

- Could be all sorts of things. But let's say salad of some sort, with lots of different vegetables (hopefully some Jerusalem artichoke hearts, or chicory), celery, and some walnuts, extra virgin olive oil based dressing. A piece of fruit, let's say banana.

- Let's say Fish, or Steak (at least once every few weeks), with garlic and onions, lots of vegetables of different types, some proper cheese with a funk to it, a glass of red wine, dark chocolate for dessert.

Most importantly change it up every day.(less)

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Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It isn't very often I come across a book that I would consider a life changing experience. This book is definitely one of those.

Tim Spector's very readable and explains the science behind what we eat, why diets don't always work, and exactly how our digestive system works.

I came away from this book with a deep understanding of why some foods don't sit well in my stomach, a starter's guide to tailoring the way I eat for my body's needs, a deep distrust of refined sugar, and an enormous respect
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
This is not about diets as in weight-loss - it's about diet as in nutrition. And another book about the gut microbiome by a Brit. (The UK is on this!)

I've read too many of these books this year and they are starting to blend together. (Giulia Enders' Gut does stand out though). What made Spector's book interesting was its broad scope (he covers everything I've read this year) and its particular quirkiness: he outright admits that much of his early career research was wrong because it was either
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
I've been struggling to loose weight for some time and have lost over 130 pounds. But lately itsvslowed down to me going up and down the scales. My GP recommended this book as she had ordered it too. She is great at keeping up with the latest concepts. I agreed to read it. It was a very enlightening book! Some of the things you think are 'healthy foods' can turn out to not do you any favours at all. I knew about super foods and processed foods so that came as no surprise however there were loads ...more
Kyle Nicholas
Nov 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Where to begin?


Okay, hysterical rant over. Now for the more reasoned critique.

This book is as formulaic in its approach to "mythbusting" as the quasi-religious dietary tomes he proposes to bust. The formula goes something like this:

1. Premise - I have the one true and right answer for why we (meaning not me but all you suckers) are fat, sick and miserable. I alone have the one ultimate truth, and I'm
Janet Berkman
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
This is a terrific book, with the perfect balance of case histories and literature reviews on the topics covered. Spector is a British genetic epidemiologist and physician who, among other things, has done a lot of twin studies. Published in 2015, the book includes the latest research in the microbiome in its evaluation of the components of our diet, and the rules (good or bad) that we've been living with around food. Spector takes a hard look at the evidence for lots of things and comes up with ...more
Mohammed H
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books you will read about food. I have tried so many diets and failed miserably. I understand now that my gut needs variation of different foods. Why do some diets work for some and don't work for others! Read and you will find out. Every diet you heard of is probably discussed in length. This is a must read if your health is important to you. Its not only informative but also written with great sense of humor. I like how he describes the gut as being your garden and the microbes ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
The author repeatedly points out the invalidity of large observational health studies and anecdotal evidence in nutrition science which is a very valid point. However, He then uses anecdotal stories, conjecture and speculation to push forward his opinions. This was not one of my favorite books on a human microbiome. Packed full of information and speculation, though.
Magdalena Golden
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am very positively surprised by this book! I was a tad sceptical given its slightly sensationalist title but in the end decided to pick it up based on the author's qualifications as a practising genetic epidemiology researcher at Kings College London. Tim Spector's competence in the subject shines clearly through his measured tone, arguments based on cited scientific research, complete with discussion of each paper's methodology and avoidance of overgeneralising individual findings.

The central
Boy Blue
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a huge amount of information in this book and that's great. Spector doesn't want to start another diet cult so doesn't really prescribe a particular diet to follow. Rather he looks to create a paradigm shift in the way we look at our diet and how our body responds to it. His view is that our microbiome (all the stuff living in our gut mostly bacteria) combined with our genetic makeup decides how we put on weight and how healthy we are. He supports the theory with his two pillars; twin ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Three stars? Four stars? I think this book is worth a look-see, though to be fair I skimmed most of it. There was a lot of over-my-poor-head science in here. My advice is to grab this from your local library (don't forget about inter-library loans if your facility doesn't own it!) and read the Conclusion. THEN, if you have questions or your interest is peaked by something Dr. Spector says there, go back to that chapter to look into it more closely.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Lightfoot
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every now and again, a book comes along that is some way, life changing. This is one. It's not a lecture. It's facts in a very readable way. Tim, the author carries a lot of credibility with his vast background. I throughly enjoyed this and will embrace some of the recommended changes as well as read again in the not too distant future.

Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, diet
A really interesting look at various types of diet and their effect on the gut and general health. What he says makes sense, and whilst there is no cure all solution to obesity or any other problem, his general advice seems good. I thought the book well written, easy to read, and insightful.
Annie Wicks
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. Very clear and backed up by the best science. A great rebuttal to all the shonky 'experts' out there and something you can rely on to guide your eating habits. I intend to look after my 'garden' - with a few naughty treats very now and then!
Alicia Joy
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I will keep it simple - everyone needs to read this book. Microbes are the future of health, and understanding them may help motivate you to change your diet - not to diet, but to change what you eat.
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Insightful, well researched and interspersed with interesting anecdotes of self experimentation. The author provides a good roadmap to improve the health of your microbiome.
The TLDR take-away is as quoted by Michael Pollen (Spector also quotes this in the wrap-up section of the book) "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much"

Spector looks at food myths through numerous studies he's done on twins and as they relate to your guts microbiom after suffering a small stroke despite being an active + apparently healthy 40 yr old man. Generally the more diverse your gut is, the better it is for your health. If you are interested in the studies and some fun weird facts that
Bobbie Darbyshire
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Why are the microbes in your gut important? Detailed and not always easy to follow, but this is a scientist reporting cutting-edge research that turns a lot of diet advice on its head. His conclusion is simple: the community of microbes in your gut, unique to you, has a huge effect on your health, weight, allergies, and longevity. The healthiest, leanest, longest-living people are those with the greatest microbial diversity. His advice: get born the natural way or, failing that, get a good ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book really interesting but it is hard going as its very science based and its full of facts, experiments and data so its a lot to take in. I cant say this will change my life but its a very thought provoking concept and I will keep my eye on the future research that is done. ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book does what is promised - to transcribe evidence on the most popular diets out there in manageable chunks and summarise what could be healthy versus what could harm our health rather than give a list of dos and don'ts (although if you want to skip the research and get the take home just read the "check-out" chapter in the end). The insight into how the microbiome plays a role in obesity is also really interesting. There are useful sum ups of the benefits of controversial claims about ...more
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The Diet Myth can feel like a bit of a ramble until one recognizes that the author is talking about diet (nutrition) and not diet (weight loss). Author Spector (a geneticist) covers nearly every nutritional hot-topic right now - from paleo to superfoods - and discusses why they are useful and why they aren't (emphasis on the latter). The theme to this book is on gut diversity (abundant bacteria) and genetics - and how
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diet
This contains less information about microbes than I would've thought (and less than some other books about the microbiome/gut). The author also seems to cocky for his own good. He seems a bit dogmatic and too willing to bash diets without addressing the science they put forward. He also rarely backs up his claims with detailed studies. Although he will mention studies at high level he neither gives details, or discusses their short falls.

He says the paleo approach to nightshades and tomatoes in
I wanted to like this book, as I was in the market for a book on how food affects the human microbiome, and in turn how our microbiome affects the human body. Even more so because I got this book as a gift, and free things are always better than things you pay for.

However this book will the first in my new policy of abandoning books that don't keep my attention locked to them. After reading 140 pages (just under half the book), I began to notice a theme playing out:

** Explain current dominant
Mario Di Maggio
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT (although the actual reader of the audiobook was surprisingly rubbish). The increasing body of knowledge about the importance of our gut biome (our largest 'organ') is unsurprising in retrospect ie. we evolved over millions of years as hunter-gatherers. OBVIOUSLY a highly varied diet is what our physiology is designed for. Duh. Is it any wonder the food monocultures introduced by farming and in particular today's lethal available levels of liquid sugar [something our ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, based on science, and easy to read.

Tim Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King's College London and a consultant physician at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital. He has spent much of his career working on obesity and nutrition. He doesn't claim to know everything, which is refreshing. He includes lots of stories, his own and those of other researchers, not just dry facts. One of the alarming stories he tells is exactly why we (the Western world) have spent decades swearing
Lisa Haderlie
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The research in the book is very cutting edge. Microbiome research is getting a lot more funding and will be huge in the years to come. Four pounds of microbes live on and in your body and most of them reside in your gut. These can be very beneficial or make you sick depending on what species are most prevalent. This book really helped me think of my stomach like a garden. For example, if I eat crap food, the harmful microbes flourish and give me an Irritable Bowel Syndrome attack.

The basic
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've never been on a diet, and don't struggle with my weight, but this book was very interesting indeed! It explains how the body digests food and what the bodily reactions are to different food stuffs. These bodily reactions are very dependent on the microbiome in your intestines and keeping your microbe population varied and vibrant is the key. Spector suggest you eat very varied, with little processed food and lot's of food with active ingredients like cheese, yogurt, fermented food stuffs ...more
Louis Skye
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not a non-fiction reader most of the time and I wasn't quite sure whether I would enjoy a book about diets but guess what, I totally did!
This is a really interesting book and despite being full of biology terms, was very simple to understand.
Spector has written this book for the layman and his conversational style and tone makes it a very easy read.
Of course, it is an incredibly fascinating book, packed with scientific facts about the crazy diets we feel we need to go on and why they're all
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Fascinating. But so much information, I need to start again from the beginning! Thanks for the recommendation Rick. Now to put it into practices.
Arune Balaikaite
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
It is only about gut microbiome

The book is quite an interesting broad read, but I was expecting somewhat different content. The main problems with this book I found were:
1. The book topics sometimes were not well connected (best due dates, and then - pesticides)
2. Ketogenic diet is low carb, high fat, not high protein. It is easy to Google that, and it gives a completely different picture. Keto diet was presented in the protein chapter, when actually the main point of the diet is control blood
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Tim Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London and Director of the TwinsUK Registry, which is one of the worlds richest data collections on 11,000 twins. He trained as a physician with a career in research, which since 1992 has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common diseases, previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Most recently ...more

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“A very pleasant surprise was that items I thought were naughty but that I enjoyed immensely, like strong coffee, dark chocolate, nuts, high fat yoghurt, wine and cheese, are actually likely to be healthy for me and my microbes.” 3 likes
“we already know enough scientifically about our microbes and our bodies to enable us to alter our lifestyles, eating patterns and diets to suit our individual needs and improve our health. It is useful to think of your microbial community as your own garden that you are responsible for. We need to make sure the soil (your intestines) that the plants (your microbes) grow in is healthy, containing plenty of nutrients; and to stop weeds or poisonous plants (toxic or disease microbes) taking over we need to cultivate the widest variety of different plants and seeds possible. I will give you a clue how we do this. Diversity is the key.” 1 likes
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