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The diet that is right for you: putting a personalised nutrition app to the test | Nutrition

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For decades, dietary advice has been notoriously faddy, swinging from the low-fat, high-carb guidance of the 1980s and 1990s to the low-carb or intermittent fasting diets recommended in more recent years.

But one programme claims to be different: it promises to test how your individual body responds to different foods, and then teach you to eat the right ones for your biology.

And it all begins with eating a packet of muffins, a novel twist even as the world of dieting becomes increasingly esoteric. But this programme, created by the team behind the Covid symptom tracker app used during the pandemic, claims that its aim is better long-term health rather than weight loss.

The Guardian was invited to be the first UK newspaper to try the programme by Prof Tim Spector, the scientific co-founder of Zoe, the firm behind apps tracking coronavirus and, now, nutrition. And the big lesson I have learned so far is “less sourdough, more nuts, cheese and avocados” – at least for me; someone else may receive entirely different advice.

The idea was born out of research suggesting that even identical twins respond differently to eating precisely the same meal. By identifying which foods lead to large, prolonged spikes in blood sugar or fats – both of which can trigger inflammation, contributing to the development of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease or dementia – the idea is that you can learn to avoid these foods, or combine them with others to help minimise these spikes.

Through the post, I received a finger-prick blood test, several packets of standardised muffins, a continuous glucose monitor that I attached to my arm, and a stool sample kit to analyse my gut microbes. I was also told to download the Zoe app, and was connected to a personal nutrition coach.

Each day for the next two weeks I would log everything I ate in the app, sometimes eating several muffins and taking a blood test to measure the amount of fat in my blood. This, combined with the data from my food log, glucose sensor and poo sample, would be crunched by an algorithm to calculate my individual responses to the foods I had eaten – and predict my responses to many more.

Spector may be best known for his work leading the Zoe Covid study, but the company’s nutrition programme was in the works long before thepandemic. Now that continuous lockdowns have endowed so many of us with an extra “Covid stone”, Spector is on a mission to change the nation’s attitude to food.

The goal isn’t weight loss in itself, but better long-term health. Interim clinical study data shows that after three months on a personalised Zoe plan, 82% of participants had more energy, 83% no longer felt hungry, and members experienced an average weight loss of 4.3kg.

Dr Sammie Gill, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said: “I’ve no doubt that in the future, personalised nutrition which offers targeted interventions and tailored recommendations based on an individual’s physiological and microbiological responses will become part of routine clinical practice. It’s a real paradigm shift and is based on the premise that dietary guidelines which offer standardised advice to all are too simplistic.”

Even before I received the results, my glucose sensor had provided some interesting insights. For instance, my go-to breakfast, a slice of sourdough slathered in butter and honey, would send my blood sugar soaring and then crashing down, but if I ate the same breakfast immediately before exercise, the effect was far less pronounced.

“These sugar spikes also tend to be followed by a sugar dip in around one in four people, and that then causes increased hunger and reduced energy levels, so you tend to eat more,” Spector said.

So, when my results finally did arrive, I wasn’t too surprised to learn that blood sugar control isn’t my metabolic strong point – although mine is about average. This does not mean that simple carbs, such as white bread, are now forbidden.

Linda Geddes tries the Zoe nutrition app.
The goal isn’t weight loss in itself, but better long-term health. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Under the Zoe system, each food is assigned a score out of 100, specific to you as an individual. So, whereas white rice earns me a score of 17-42, depending on the type, if I combine rice with split peas, this rises to 75 – meaning I can consume it regularly.

Happily, I can report that my blood fat control – how quickly I clear it from my circulation – is excellent, although this doesn’t mean I can consume cakes and whipped cream with abandon, because the app also considers their effect on the growth of good and bad gut bacteria (and these foods promote bad ones). However, it does mean that avocados, cheese, greek yoghurt and nuts are now regular fixtures on my menu.

Though I’m happy to eat more of them, I worry about the effect on my waistline. However, my coach tells me not all calories are created equal, and that they should be regarded as an average indicator of energy provision.

I also received a score for my microbial health, the diversity of which is below average, possibly due to a prolonged course of antibiotics. But it is fortunately rich in bacteria that support blood glucose control. I was given a list of foods to try to boost their levels further – mostly vegetables and nuts, but also green tea and black coffee.

The total cost of the test kit is £259.99, and most people commit to a four-month programme at £34.99 a month.

Zoe is not the only company developing this concept of personalised nutrition, but it is one of the first to hit the UK market. Prof John Mathers, the director of Newcastle University’s Human Nutrition Research Centre, is broadly supportive of the idea, calling it “based on high-quality research” with the power to “help motivate individuals to eat more healthily”.

His concern is over the rush to commercialisation, and that it may be too simplistic to predict long-term health. He also dislikes the suggestion that it is unnecessary to limit energy intake to lose weight. “These are seductive ideas, but in my view the available evidence is too limited to be confident that they are correct.”

However, I love that the app provides real-time feedback on what you’re considering putting into your mouth. Already, I’m drinking less wine, and have noticed I am now less prone to craving biscuits and chocolate after meals.

I am also consuming vastly more vegetables – particularly at lunchtime, when my typical sandwich has been replaced with a wholegrain or bean-based salad, with plenty of leaves and seeds. Even if I don’t lose weight, my gut microbes will surely thank me. Just don’t stand too close to me in an enclosed space.

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Kevin Lankinen, Predators take down Islanders 4-1

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Kevin Lankinen made a career-high 48 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the New York Islanders 4-1 on Friday night for their seventh victory in nine games.

Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi scored and Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund added empty-net goals. The Predators have won nine straight games against the Islanders, the longest active streak against a single opponent. The Predators are 11-1-1 in their last 13 overall against the Islanders.

“Lanky knew what he was doing. We had great goaltending,’’ Forsberg said. “The reason we are happy is the play of our goaltender.”

Mathew Barzal scored for New York midway through the third period.

“That’s a good hockey team over there,’’ Barzal said of the Predators, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. “They are heavy and strong with good D. It could have gone either way.”

The Predators were coming off 4-3 comeback win at New Jersey on Thursday night in which they scored with nine seconds left in the third period and won 33 seconds into overtime.

“We played two solid games against two very good teams,″ said Duchene, whose goal was the 300th of his career. “The Islanders threw the kitchen sink at us in the third.”

Forsberg opened the scoring on a power play with 5:42 left in the first with his eighth goal of the season. Duchene and Josi assisted.

Josi, the Predators captain, made it 2-0 on a power play at 8:22 of the second. Forsberg and Duchene assisted.

Josi has 10 points in his last seven games against the Islanders, including four assists in Nashville’s 5-4 home Nov. 17. The Swiss-born defenseman is four points from tying David Legwand for most points (566) in Predators history.

Lankinen made nine saves in the first, 18 in the second and 21 more in the third. The 27-year-old Finnish goaltender played the previous two seasons with Chicago.

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“Kevin was great. He was really good down the stretch,’’ Predators coach John Hynes said. “It’s great to see him get rewarded.”

Islanders Lane Lambert said he was pleased with the Islanders’ offense which generated a season-high 49 shots. But Lankinen was there to stop all but one as the Islanders lost for only the fourth time in 12 home games.

“We did a good job at times,’’ Lambert said. “It was just one of those nights.”

Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh left the game nine minutes into the third period after he was struck in the nose on a shot by Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov. McDonagh, the former Rangers captain, wears a face shield.

The Islanders scratched forward Kyle Palmieri, who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday retroactive to Nov. 21 … The Islanders also scratched forwards Cal Clutterbuck (day-to-day with an undisclosed injury) Ross Johnston and Hudson Fasching, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Thursday along with Cole Bardreau who skated in Clutterbuck’s spot on a line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin … The Predators scratched forwards Eeli Tolvanen and Cody Glass.

Islanders: Host Chicago on Sunday night,

Predators: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

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WHO estimates 90% of world have some resistance to Covid | Coronavirus

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The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the world population now has some resistance to Covid-19, but warned that a troubling new variant could still emerge.

Gaps in vigilance were leaving the door open for a new virus variant to appear and overtake the globally dominant Omicron, the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

“WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world’s population now has some level of immunity to Sars-CoV-2, due to prior infection or vaccination,” said Tedros, referring to the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

“We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over – but we’re not there yet,” he told reporters.

“Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality.”

Last weekend marked one year since the organisation announced Omicron as a new variant of concern in the Covid-19 pandemic, Tedros noted.

It has since swept round the world, proving significantly more transmissible than its predecessor, Delta.

Last week, the latest real-world study of updated Covid boosters showed that new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are likely to provide better protection compared with the original shots.

The study of more than 360,000 people indicated that the boosters offer increased protection against new variants in people who have previously received up to four doses of the older vaccine.

Since their introduction to the US in September, the vaccine boosters, which contain both original and Omicron BA.4/5 coronavirus strain, provided greater benefit to younger adults aged 18-49 years that those in the older age group.

Tedros said there were now more than 500 highly transmissible Omicron sub-lineages circulating – all able to get around built-up immunity more easily, even if they tended to be less severe than previous variants.

Around the world, 6.6 million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, from nearly 640 million registered cases. But the UN health agency says this will be a massive undercount and unreflective of the true toll.

Tedros said more than 8,500 people were recorded as having lost their lives to Covid last week, “which is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives”.

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Kevin Durant, Nets beat Raptors to tally fourth win in a row

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Make it four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Nets are one of the hottest teams in basketball and moved two games above .500 with a 114-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout 17,732 fans at Barclays Center on Friday night.

They led by as many as 36 points before letting the Raptors creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter.

After digging a 2-6 hole to start the season, the Nets (13-11) have pulled a complete 180. They are inching closer toward contender status, though they still have tremendous ground to cover separating themselves from the cream of the NBA crop.

And it both looks and feels different when the Nets aren’t leaning too heavily on Kevin Durant — or Kyrie Irving, as they did for unending stretches last season.

Durant’s minutes have become a point of contention in Brooklyn, as they were last year. He entered Friday’s matchup as the league’s leader in minutes, points and field goals. At age 34 and in year 15, the Nets star is averaging 37 minutes per game for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said ahead of tipoff. “That’s just kind of where we are. He understands that.”

It hits different, though, when Durant has help, and it reflects on the scoreboard.

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Sharpshooter Joe Harris got hot early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. After breaking out of his shooting slump to hit four out of six threes in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Harris, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Simmons (calf strain), hit another five threes for 17 points against the Raptors on Friday.

Royce O’Neale hit a trio of timely threes, and Kyrie Irving shouldered a large chunk of the scoring load, scoring 27 points on 17 shot attempts. Veteran forward TJ Warren, in his Nets debut after missing two-plus seasons with consecutive stress fractures in his left foot, scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting off the bench.

And Nic Claxton added 15 points and nine rebounds, sealing the game with a putback dunk, then offensive rebound and finish that extended the Nets’ lead back to 16.

He forced Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call his second to last timeout with four minutes left in the fourth.

It was Durant’s lightest workload of the season. He still played 38 minutes but they were low impact. He only took 10 shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets built a lead as large as 36 and watched the Raptors whittle the deficit down to as little as seven in the final minute of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a pretty finish but nothing has come easy for the Nets this season.

They have a chance to make it five in a row on Sunday, though they’ll have to go through last year’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to get there.

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