How the ZOE COVID Study App has helped in the fight against COVID

ZOE launched the COVID Study App to support essential research on COVID-19 in March 2020. This is a non profit initiative with over 4.5 million users. 

The ZOE COVID Symptom study was the first to show that 60% of people with COVID-19 will experience a loss of taste or smell. This symptom is called anosmia, and is a sign that you should isolate and get a COVID test.

The ZOE COVID study is an important source of information for researchers, the government and the public.

The ZOE COVID study has shown that the large numbers of users of the App can be used to provide disease surveillance. This has the potential to provide policymakers with a vital source of information about the spread of COVID-19.

This study has suggested that mobile technology can provide real-time data on both the local and national state of the pandemic.

So, how can you help and take part in the fight against COVID 19?

Why not download the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app on your phone! It only takes a minute to report your health every day. You can do this even if you’re well.

Fasting and religion

Religions involves different practices and rituals in accordance with the area, culture and historical time in which they were developed. Religions can offer advice on behaviour and diet as ways to strengthen the body and purify the spirit. Fasting practices vary widely. Fasting is considered a limiting of or absence of food consumption for a specific period of time. Fasting is generally intended to promote using the body’s energy reserves without causing malnutrition or starvation (1).

Fasting is a common part of many religions. Fasting is part of Judaism and also Christianity, with the practice of Lent. Fasting is practiced in Islam during Ramadan. Fasting is also part of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.

Greek Orthodox Christian fasting

Greek Orthodox fasting is practiced during Nativity, Lent and the Assumption (2). The Nativity fast is forty days before Christmas. Lent involves fasting forty eight days before Easter. The Assumption fast involves fasting fifteen days in August prior to the Assumption.

Greek Orthodox fasting involves abstaining from meat, eggs, dairy and alcohol. Bread, fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals are eaten (1).

Islamic fasting

Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Hijra (Islamic calendar). Food and drink are not allowed during daylight hours. Water is not allowed during daylight hours. The fast is broken by consuming two unrestricted meals, after sunset and before dawn (2). Ramadan is a type of intermittent fasting.

Certain people are exempt from fasting. These include children, pregnant/breastfeeding women, chronically ill, elderly and people travelling long distances (3). Adults are allowed to make up missed days of fasting on other days of the year or during their lifetime.

The length of fasting varies due to Hijra being a lunar calendar. Ramadan lasts approximately twenty nine to thirty days, falling at different times in the year, over a thirty three year period. The average length of daily fasting is twelve to fourteen hours but it can last eighteen to twenty two hours in extreme latitudes (4). Abstaining from caffeine and tobacco during Ramadan is recommended.

Judaism and fasting

Yom Kippur, the Jewish fast occurs on day ten of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. There is restriction from eating and drinking fluids, including water. It is known as the day of Atonement. This abstention from food and drinks is supposed to improve the ability to concentrate on repenting (1).

The Jewish fast lasts twenty five hours. It begins prior to sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur. It ends after nightfall on the next day (1). Yom Kippur is treated as a Sabbath. On that day, no work, cooking, driving, shopping etc. can be undertaken (1). My blog The Jewish diet and Kosher foods in the UK provides information on Jewish dietary laws and Kosher foods.

Buddhism and fasting

Buddhist fasting involves eating a typical vegetarian diet throughout the year. Meat and dairy products (which sometimes includes milk) are excluded (1). The food consumed can vary among different countries i.e. Chinese Buddhists generally drink milk. However, Taiwanese Buddhists consume soybean products in general (5), (6). Eating garlic, garlic chives, Welsh onion, asant, leeks is prohibited. Alcohol and processed foods are also prohibited (1).

Hinduism and fasting

The Hindu literature (Vedic literature) upholds the sacred nature of life. The traditional system of medicine in India – Ayurveda, promotes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain foods and avoidance of overcooked, over ripe, refined and highly processed food products (7).

Hinduism allows for different interpretations of the religion. Dietary recommendations and restrictions vary as a result (7). Hinduism advocates a lifestyle that promotes physical and mental health and longevity (1).

The majority of religions share the common aim of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Fasting is a common element of most religions. It can be concluded that fasting is used as a method of purification to obtain a sense of freedom.


1) Venegas-Borsellino, C., & Martindale, R. G. (2018). From Religion to Secularism: the Benefits of Fasting. Current nutrition reports.

3) Ramadan Health Factsheet 2021 (2021) Muslim council of Britain.

2) Trepanowski, J. F., & Bloomer, R. J. (2010). The impact of religious fasting on human health. Nutrition journal9, 57.

4) Leiper JB, Molla AM, Molla AM. Effects on health of fluid restriction during fasting in Ramadan. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57(Suppl 2):S30–8.

5) Lee Y, Krawinkel M. Body composition and nutrient intake of Buddhist vegetarians. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2009;18(2):265–71.

6) Chen CW, Lin YL, Lin TK, Lin CT, Chen BC, Lin CL. Total cardiovascular risk profile of Taiwanese vegetarians. Eur J ClinNutr. 2008;62(1):138–44.

7) Twari SC, Pandey NM. The Indian concepts of lifestyle and mental health in old age. Indian J Psychiatry. 2013;55(Suppl 2):S288–S92.

Celebrating Easter with food!

Easter is a time of celebration with family and close friends. Easter is a religious time for practicing Christians. Easter time is celebrated throughout the world with food. Different countries use different foods to celebrate this time of year.

Hot Cross Buns – United Kingdom

Hot Cross Buns are a sweet tasting spiced bun usually made with currants or raisins and ground cinnamon is included in the recipe. They are marked with a cross on top. They were traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom. However, they are now available throughout the year in supermarkets and bakeries.

Pashka – Russia

Pashka is a traditional Russian Easter food. It is made from cheese curds and has the consistency of cheesecake. It can come in both cooked and uncooked forms. It is pressed into a mould into the shape of a pyramid. It is normally white in colour. This symbolises the purity of Jesus Christ. The letters ‘XP’ are pressed on the food which mean that ‘Christ is risen’ from the dead.

Tsoureki (Easter Bread) – Greece

Tsoureki is a soft, sweet, aromatic bread. The three braids represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Holy Trinity). The hard boiled eggs served with it, are dyed red which symbolises the blood of Christ. The red egg is a symbol of rebirth (resurrection of Christ).

Easter Dove (Cake) – Italy

This dove shaped cake or Colomba pasquale has been used to celebrate Easter in Italy for nearly a century. The dough is made with flour, yeast, sugar, natural eggs and butter. It is mixed with candied orange peel. The dough is then topped with both almonds and icing before being oven baked.

Baked Ham – United States

Many families in the United States eat baked ham on Easter Sunday. The ham can be glazed with honey and brown sugar, giving it a sweet taste.

Easter Mammi – Finland

The Finnish Mammi dessert is traditionally made with rye flour, water and powdered malted rye. Dark molasses, dried powdered orange zest and salt are used to season it. It can be served with cream or milk. Many centuries ago, Mammi was enjoyed during Lent in Finland.

Capirotada – Mexico

Capirotada is a traditional Mexican bread pudding often eaten around Easter time. It symbolizes the Passion of Christ. It can be filled with raisins, cinnamon, cloves and cheese.

Torta Pascualina – Argentina

Torta Pascualina is filled with hard boiled eggs, ricotta, artichoke, parsley and spinach. It is often eaten during Lent. The eggs in Torta Pascualina are used to symbolize the Resurrection of Christ.



The Jewish diet and Kosher foods in the UK


All aspects of Judaism (the Jewish religion) are taken from the Torah (Old Testament). It is important to remember that the Jewish people practice Judaism at various levels. Orthodox Jews strictly follow the religion and adhere to the Jewish dietary laws. They are also like to observe all Jewish festivals, including the Sabbath. Reform Jews are not likely to adhere to strict dietary laws and are unlikely to observe all Jewish festivals strictly. Liberal Jews do not feel obliged to follow the dietary laws but can follow them if they wish to do so. Liberal Jews do believe that all Jewish festivals should be followed (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Kashrut is the word used for Jewish dietary laws regarding how food can be prepared and eaten and what foods can and cannot be eaten. Kosher is the word used for foods prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

London has one of the largest Jewish populations of approximately 200,000 people, outside of Israel and the US (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Outside of London in the UK, Manchester has one of the largest Jewish populations of approximately 40,000 people. The Jewish population grew in Manchester as the prices of property in London became more expensive. There has been growth in more strict Orthodox practicing Jews in Manchester (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Other Jewish communities can be found in Gateshead, Leeds, Glasgow and Sunderland (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Jewish dietary laws and food restrictions (Adapted from Thaker and Barton, 2012)

  • All meat consumed must be from animals that have cloven hooves and chew the cud.
  • Poultry that can be consumed include duck, chicken, goose, turkey.
  • Forbidden animals include rodents, amphibians, reptiles, all insects. Eating game, hare, rock badger and pig is forbidden.
  • Kosher cuts of meat from the animal are from the front up to the twelfth rib.
  • A shochet (qualified person) must slaughter all poultry/meat. Shechita is the way that the meat is slaughtered.
  • Once the animal has been slaughtered, it is made kosher by draining all the blood. This involves covering the meat in salt.
  • Kosher fish must have fins and scales i.e. trout, cod, salmon, tuna, mackerel.
  • Milk and meat cannot be consumed together. One set of utensils, crockery, pots, cutlery etc. must be used for milk and another set used for meat.
  • Milk and meat food must be stored separately.
  • Kosher supervision is needed to eat products with grape juice.
  • All fresh fruits and vegetables are allowed but they cannot contain any insects.

Parev food (neutral food) is neither milk or meat. This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, raw potatoes, raw rice, raw pasta, raw eggs, sweets, crisps, biscuits, chocolate. Parev foods can be served with milk or meat. Parev foods will become meat or milk depending on what is added to it or what it is cooked in i.e. pasta cooked in a parev saucepan is neutral until cheese or meat is added to it (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Kosher Regulation and Certification

Kosher certification is one of the oldest certification systems in the world (Lever and Fischer, 2019). There are greater than 1,400 kosher certifying agencies worldwide. Kosher certification agencies take two forms – local (small scale) and industrial (large scale). Some of the largest industrial certification agencies include Star – K, Orthodox Union (OU), the Kosher London Beth Din (KLBD) and the Chicago Rabbinical Counsel (cRc). Some of these certification agencies are specific to regions i.e. KLBD for Europe, cRc for North America. Other certification agencies i.e. OU, Star-K, are worldwide (Ali and Nizar, 2018).

Some mainstream Jewish schools in the UK provide kosher foods from recognised kosher certified agencies. Some schools use the company Hermolis to provide pre-packed school meals. Some schools are able to provide their own kosher catering (Lever and Fischer, 2019).

There is a wide availability of kosher meat. The price of the meat increases when the strictness levels of assessing the product by certifying agencies, increases (Lever and Fischer, 2019).

Kosher production practices are becoming more complex; this is due to food production processes changing rapidly. In present times, an individual food product may contain over one hundred ingredients which can make it difficult for kosher inspectors (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Healthy eating is becoming more important for kosher consumers.

The Sabbath

The Sabbath is a day of rest and for spending time with family and friends. The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends after nightfall on Saturday. Three meals are eaten on the Sabbath.

Healthy foods for Sabbath meals could include

Starters: Fish, fruit or salad

Soup: Chicken soup (with fat removed and no pasta (vermicelli))

Main course: Grilled meat with rice, cooked meat salad, baked potato with steamed vegetables or salad

Desserts: Fruit, meringue, small portion of ice cream

The Passover

The Passover festival usually lasts eight days. The first and last two days of the Passover are similar to the Sabbath. It is forbidden to eat food from five types of grain that have been leavened, during this period i.e. barley, rye, wheat, spelt and oats. The staple food for the week is matzos. This is an unleavened bread (wheat has been in contact with water for a short period of time) (Thaker and Barton, 2012). Jews will observe the Passover at various levels of strictness. Some Jews will avoid eating bread throughout the period while others will eat matzos and purchase kosher food.

Why follow the kosher diet in today’s modern world?

Rabbi Shraga Simmons has given his words of wisdom on the ABC’s of Kosher at

His reasons can be summarised as follows:

Kosher foods are eaten for spirituality. It instils self-discipline, being disciplined in what and when you eat. Kosher food can be perceived as healthier due to its close supervision. Following kosher procedures involves slaughtering animals with the least possible pain. Observing kosher keeps keeps a Jewish home ‘Jewish’. It re-enforces Judaism and the sacrifices made for Judaism.

Online Kosher Food Shopping UK

Online Kosher Food Recipes


Lever, J. & Fischer, J. 2019, Religion, regulation, consumption: globalising kosher and halal markets, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Ali, E.M. & Nizar, N.N.A. 2018, Preparation and processing of religious and cultural foods, Woodhead Publishing, an imprint of Elsevier, Cambridge, MA;Duxford;.

Thaker, A., Barton, A. & ProQuest (Firm) 2012, Multicultural handbook of food, nutrition and dietetics, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester [England].

Dietary fibre – why is it good for you?

Dietary fibre has been consumed for centuries. It has been recognised as having health benefits. This is supported by over 100 years research into dietary fibre’s physical and chemical properties, physiology and metabolic effects.

Dietary fibre has many definitions. Dietary fibre includes plant based carbohydrates that are not digested in the small intestine and therefore reach the large intestine. Dietary fibre includes soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble forms of fibre include guar gum, pectin, ispaghula and psyllium. Insoluble forms of fibre include cellulose and wheat bran.

Adults in the UK are currently recommended to consume 30g of fibre per day using AOAC fibre method which includes starch and lignin as well as non starch polysaccharides. Unfortunately, a large proportion of adults in the UK lack fibre in their diet. This has been shown from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) results 2014-2016.

Foods that are rich in fibre include wholegrain bread, breakfast cereals, barley, oats, whole wheat pasta, pears, oranges, broccoli, carrots, nuts, seeds, peas, beans and lentils.

Fibre intake can be increased by using the following tips:

  •  Eat wholegrain cereals for breakfast i.e. Weetabix, bran flakes. Seeds and nuts can also be added to cereals to increase fibre intake.
  •  Eat wholemeal or wholegrain breads.
  •  Eat potatoes with skins to increase fibre intake.
  •  Add chickpeas, lentils and beans to salads and stews.
  •  Eat foods high in fibre for snacks i.e. oranges, oatcakes, carrot sticks, seeds, rye crackers.

Dietary fibre has many health benefits. These include increasing satiety by adding bulk to the diet. Fibre adds bulk to stools which reduces constipation. Fibre is fermented in the large intestine. A product produced in the fermentation process are short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s). SCFA’s promote colonic absorption and provide energy for the body. They may have an influence on satiety hormones in the large intestine. SCFA’s may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Fibre also has a function in the absorption of vitamin K. The US Food and Drug Administration agency have accepted health claims for foods which contain oat products (oats, oat bran and oat flour), psyllium and barley for their cholesterol lowering effects.

Dietary fibre in both soluble and insoluble forms is essential for gut health. Dietary fibre increases satiety and increases stool bulk, reducing constipation. Oats have been shown to have a cholesterol lowering effect. SCFA’s produced from the products of fermented fibre are beneficial to health by providing energy for the body and promoting colonic absorption. Dietary fibre is found in many foods. Fibre is indeed very beneficial for our health



British Nutrition Foundation, 2018. Dietary fibre. [online] Available at:< > [Accessed 15 July 2019].

Dhingra, D., Michael, M., Rajput, H. & Patil, R.T. 2012. Dietary fibre in foods: a review, Journal of Food Science and Technology, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 255-266.

Public Health England, 2018. National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015 to 2015/2016). London: Public Health England. Available at: < > [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Reynolds, A., Mann, J., Cummings, J., Winter, N., Mete, E. & Te Morenga, L. 2019, Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, The Lancet, vol. 393, no. 10170, pp. 434-445.



The Paleo diet

What is the Paleo diet?
It involves eating like our ancestors did. The Paleo diet involves eating naturally, eating grass-fed meats, wholefoods, fruit and vegetables. It was first promoted by Dr Walter L Voegtlin, a gastroenterologist. Dr Voegtlin’s book, The Stone Age diet, was published in 1975. There are many different Paleo approaches, their core principles are similar, but they vary in their restriction level. Other terms for the Paleo diet include hunter gatherer diet, caveman diet, Paleolithic diet.

Why follow the Paleo diet?                                                                                                  Advocates state that it promotes a natural way of eating with low sugar and salt levels and no processed or refined foods. A lot of followers of the Paleo diet believe that our digestive systems have changed very little since pre-agricultural or Paleolithic times. Many foods that we eat today could not be eaten raw in Paleolithic times. Therefore, Paleo followers believe that the following foods can create strain on the gastrointestinal tract: legumes, refined sugar, processed foods, potatoes, cereal grains, dairy, salt, refined vegetable oils and root vegetables.

It must be remembered that diets in pre-agricultural times varied in different locations due to seasonality, climate etc. People in pre-agricultural times were also a lot more active, than they are in modern times. Energy expenditure levels would have been higher in Paleolithic times.

Criticisms of the Paleo diet
The Paleo diet ignores the benefits of eating beans/legumes which have a low glycaemic index which is useful for individuals with blood sugar problems. It also ignores the benefits of consuming starchy vegetables, a source of nutrient dense energy and wholegrains which add bulk to the diet and assist with bowel movements. The omission of dairy limits calcium intake in the diet. Those at risk of osteoporosis should speak to a dietitian before going on the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet could be difficult to maintain on a long-term basis due to omission of food groups i.e. dairy.

What is the evidence on the Paleo diet?                                                                                 Studies have found the Paleo diet to be associated with an increase in satiety. This is independent of the number of calories or composition of nutrients. Improvements in waist circumference, body weight, blood pressure and lipid profiles have been found. However, these studies were of a short duration and had a small number of participants involved.  Also, a study by Melburg found increased weight loss on the Paleo diet at six months compared to a healthy control diet, but there was no difference in weight loss between the two diets at two years.

Studies have found palatability and compliance issues with the Paleo diet. The cost of the Paleo diet was indicated to be 10% more expensive than a diet of similar nutritional value after modelling the cost of the Paleo diet. This would make it unsuitable for those on a low income.

More research is needed on the Paleo diet. Larger studies of a longer duration are required before conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of the Paleo diet.


Fisher, R., 2019. What is the Paleo diet? [online] Available at: Accessed [12th August 2019].

Manheimer, E.W., van Zuuren, E.J., Fedorowicz, Z. & Pijl, H. 2015, Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 4, pp. 922-932.

Mellberg, C., Sandberg, S., Ryberg, M., Eriksson, M., Brage, S., Larsson, C., Olsson, T., Lindahl, B., Medicinska fakulteten, Umeå universitet, Medicin, Institutionen för folkhälsa och klinisk medicin, Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Statistik, Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet, Institutionen för kostvetenskap & Yrkes- och miljömedicin 2014. Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial, European journal of clinical nutrition, vol. 68, no. 3, pp. 350-357.

Pitt, C.E., 2016. Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet. Australian family physician, 45(1/2), p.35.

The Importance and Relevance of Personalised Nutrition

Personalised nutrition is relevant to many areas – nutrition, genetics, health care and public health. The consumer has a major impact on the importance and future of personalised nutrition. At present personalised nutrition is very unregulated. Personalised nutrition needs to be based on scientific evidence. This evidence needs to be communicated clearly to the consumer so that the consumer can make an informed choice.

The aim of personalised nutrition is to maintain and or improve health of individuals by using genetic, clinical and dietary information to provide healthy eating advice and implement the necessary dietary changes. Personalised nutrition is not new. It has been used in the treatment of rare genetic disorders i.e. phenylketonuria and also more common disorders i.e. lactose intolerance. Personalised nutrition is based on the concept that individual nutrition advice will be more effective than generic advice. Personalised nutrition can be based on 1) evidence of different responses to foods and nutrients due to genotypic/phenotypic characteristics. 2) examination of current preferences, behaviour and delivering interventions which enable each individual to make the required changes to their eating patterns. An individual’s genotype is the set of genes that they have. Their phenotype are their observable characteristics which are influenced by their phenotype and their environment i.e. height, weight, plasma cholesterol, blood pressure, behaviour.

Personalised nutrition involves the use of both nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. Nutrigenomics refers to applying principles of genomics in nutrition research. It enables the formation of associations between specific nutrients and genetic factors i.e. how foods/food ingredients influence expression of genes. Diets that are unbalanced can change nutrient-gene interactions, increasing the risk of chronic diseases. Nutrient imbalances are considered as factors in cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, aging, immune disorders, stroke, neurological disorders. Genetic makeup variations are considered as factors in digestive diseases, gastrointestinal cancers, osteoporosis, inflammatory conditions.

Nutrigenetics examines the effect of individual differences at the genetic level that influence the individual’s response to diet. The individual differences can be at the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) level rather than at gene level. SNPs change individuals dietary metabolic responses. SNPs can have an effect on the production of risks for the onset of disease. A good example is the relationship between folate and MTHFR. Folate is required for the efficient functioning of MTHFR. MTHFR has a role in supplying 5-MTHF. This is necessary for the remethylation of homocysteine for methionine production. The 677C→T polymorphism in MTHFR results in a significant decreased activity. Individuals with TT unstable copies who also have low folic acid intake, will have increased plasma homocysteine. This increases their risk of cardiovascular disease. When these individuals increase their folic acid intake, they can restore their normal levels of methionine (through metabolization of homocysteine).

Consumers do have concerns about personalised nutrition. Consumers have questioned the evidence that nutrigenomics (and nutrigenetics) can make a difference to an individual’s health. Consumers are especially concerned about what happens to the genetic information that is given to a company to examine and test. Consumers need to know who has access to this information. They also need to know if insurers or employers could access this information. Consumers have concerns about the security of personal data in public databases. Consumers have also expressed concern regarding the regulation of nutrigenomics (and nutrigenetics).

It must be stressed that the majority of the evidence supporting personalised nutrition has only involved observational studies. There is a need for more randomised controlled trials where clinical endpoints can be measured. At present, there is a limited ability to implement current research. There is a need for a framework and clear guidelines for the assessment of diet-gene interactions. There is also a need for more educational resources for personalised nutrition. Evidence based personalised nutrition research should be used for the provision of dietary advice to decrease disease risk and promote long-term health. Ultimately, it is consumers who will decide the relevance and importance of personalised nutrition, for the future.


Garg, R., Sharma, N. & Jain, S. 2014, “Nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics: Concepts and applications in nutrition research and practice”, Acta Medica International, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 124.

Grimaldi, K.A., van Ommen, B., Ordovas, J.M., Parnell, L.D., Mathers, J.C., Bendik, I., Brennan, L., Celis-Morales, C., Cirillo, E., Daniel, H., de Kok, B., El-Sohemy, A., Fairweather-Tait, S.J., Fallaize, R., Fenech, M., Ferguson, L.R., Gibney, E.R., Gibney, M., Gjelstad, I.M.F., Kaput, J., Karlsen, A.S., Kolossa, S., Lovegrove, J., Macready, A.L., Marsaux, C.F.M., Alfredo Martinez, J., Milagro, F., Navas-Carretero, S., Roche, H.M., Saris, W.H.M., Traczyk, I., van Kranen, H., Verschuren, L., Virgili, F., Weber, P. & Bouwman, J. 2017, “Proposed guidelines to evaluate scientific validity and evidence for genotype-based dietary advice”, Genes & nutrition, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 35.

Institute of Medicine, 2007. Nutrigenomics and Beyond: Informing the Future: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC, The National Academies Press.

Ordovas, J.M., Ferguson, L.R., Tai, E.S. & Mathers, J.C. 2018, “Personalised nutrition and health”, BMJ (Clinical research ed.), vol. 361, pp. bmj.k2173.


Tips on reducing salt intake in your diet

The amount of sodium (in the form of salt) consumed in Europe is greater than levels recommended by WHO. Excess sodium intake increases blood pressure and increases risk of stroke and CHD. The WHO guideline for sodium intake is less than 2g per day which is equivalent to 5g of salt. Approximately 99% of the world’s adult population have a mean salt intake above recommended levels. Processed foods where sodium is added during food processing is a major source of sodium for the Western diet. Other sodium sources include salt added during food preparation and cooking and salt added while eating.

Tips for reducing salt intake

Shop for lower salt foods

Compare nutrition labels on food packaging

Choose the breakfast cereal/pizza that is lower in salt

Eat less of cured meats and fish as these can be high in salt

Buy tinned pulses and vegetables that have no added salt

Watch out for salt content in ready made pasta sauces – cheesy sauces, sauces that contain bacon, ham or olives can be higher in salt than tomato based sauces

If eating crackers or crisps; choose the ones lower in salt

Watch intake of pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and soy sauce; these can be high in salt

Cook with less salt

Salt alternatives – use black pepper as seasoning – try on pizza, soup, fish, scrambled egg and pasta

Use fresh herbs and spices in vegetables, meat and pasta dishes

Use lime, garlic, ginger in stir fries

Make sauces using garlic and ripe tomatoes

Salt tips when eating out

Pizza – choose toppings with chicken and vegetables instead of bacon, pepperoni

Pasta – choose dishes with a tomato sauce with chicken/vegetables instead of sausage, cheese or bacon

Burgers – opt for salad toppings and avoid bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce

Foods to limit – these are usually high in salt

Pot noodles/instant noodles

Sandwiches filled with processed meat/cheese

Whole milk/cream; majority of cheeses – cheddar, parmesan, processed and cream cheese

Butter, lard, suet, palm and coconut oil

Processed meats i.e. ham, bacon, pate, corned beef, sausages, gammon, burgers

Sausage rolls, meat pies

Smoked fish, tinned tuna in brine

Cakes, cheesecake, ice-cream, majority of cream based desserts, fudge, chocolate, toffee

Crisps, salted popcorn, olives, cheese flavoured biscuits, cheese dips, sour cream dips

Rock sea and table salt, stock cubes, marmite

Barbecue sauce, ketchup, horseradish, mayonnaise, salad cream, mustard

Low salt options

Shredded wheat, muesli with no added salt, porridge oats, rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous

Skimmed milk, low fat/fat free yoghurt

Olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil

Fresh lean meat, oily and white fish, tinned fish in water

Fresh, dried and frozen fruit, vegetables and pulses

Tinned vegetables and fruit with no added salt

Rice pudding, fruit salad, dried fruit, sugar free jelly

Plain breadsticks, rice cakes, unsalted popcorn, no added salt crisps, salsa dips

Vinegar, lemon juice, herbs and spices, tomato puree, apple sauce, cranberry sauce

CANCER – Attitudes Now Can help prevent it Eat Healthily Regular Activity

Being overweight or obese is an increasing cause of cancer in the UK. Cancer Research UK found more than a third of all cancer cases were avoidable. Cancer Research UK also found that excess weight as a cause of cancer; has increased from 5.5% in 2011 to 6.3% (present  figure). Other preventable causes of cancer include drinking alcohol and eating too little fibre. This article focuses mainly on how to reduce obesity by eating a healthy diet which can assist in decreasing your cancer risk.

Obesity is now linked to up to twelve different forms of cancer – liver, prostate (advanced), ovary, mouth and throat, stomach, bowel, breast (post-menopause), kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, oesophagus and womb. The World Cancer Research Fund has stated that consuming a healthy diet, being active and maintaining a healthy weight are – after not smoking – the most important ways that you can decrease your cancer risk.

Cancer Research UK recommends that in order to keep a healthy weight, eat mainly –

Vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, protein foods such as pulses, fish and fresh chicken

Cancer Research UK recommends cutting down on the following –

Red and processed meats, high calorie foods and sugary drinks

Increase fruit and vegetables in diet

Fruit and vegetables are an excellent fibre source and low in calories. This can help you maintain a healthy weight. Cancer Research UK has stated that the increased consumption of fruit and vegetables can decrease the risk of throat, mouth and lung cancers.

Tips to increase your fruit and vegetable daily intake:

Make a habit of adding fruit to your cereal, porridge or yoghurt

Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables which can be stir-fried or steamed

Top a baked potato with beans, tuna and sweetcorn or broccoli and low fat cheese

Use fruit as a dessert i.e. fresh fruit salad, banana with low fat frozen yoghurt etc.

Have vegetable omelettes i.e. add mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, onions to an omelette

Pre cut vegetables can be used for snacks, in lunches or as side dishes i.e. green, yellow, red peppers, carrot/celery sticks, sliced cucumber

Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Eat one to two portions of fruit and/or vegetables with each meal. Make fruit or vegetables first choice as a snack.

Portion of fruit/vegetable examples:

One portion is 80g or any of the following:


One banana, orange, apple, pear or a similar sized fruit

Half a grapefruit/avocado

Two plums/satsumas or similar sized fruit

Two handfuls of blueberries or raspberries

A handful of grapes


Three heaped tablespoons of vegetables including raw, frozen, cooked or tinned vegetables

One cereal bowl of watercress, lettuce or spinach

Tips on increasing wholegrain foods in diet:

Choose brown, wholegrain bread instead of white bread

Use brown rice instead of white rice

Use whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta

Eat wholegrain breakfast cereals such as Weetabix, porridge, bran flakes etc.

Add barley to stews and soups

Tips on eating less processed and red meats:

Try to have vegetarian only meals one or two days per week

Decrease portion sizes of red and processed meats and increase vegetable portion size

Swap red meats and processed meats for fresh fish and chicken

Use lentils, beans and chickpeas instead of meat when cooking; these pulses are a good source of fibre and protein

Tips on decreasing daily salt intake:

Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables; drain and rinse canned vegetables

Check food labels before buying and purchase less salty options

Use spices, herbs, garlic and citrus juices in place of salt for adding flavour to your food

Limit your intake of salt to less than six grams per day (2.4g sodium)

Tips to reduce high calorie foods and drinks:

Eating more wholegrain foods, vegetables and pulses during meals helps fill you up more on fewer calories

Decrease or avoid sugary drinks; drink water instead

Decrease fast foods and takeaway meals; cook more at home

Prepare fruit and vegetables for snacks and avoid high calorie snacks – chocolate, crisps, biscuits etc.

The Eat Well Guide shows the balance of foods that should be eaten on a daily basis to maintain a healthy weight.


Obesity and being overweight is a huge health risk at present. The UK government needs to build on their successes in smoking prevention to decrease the numbers of obesity and overweight related cancers. Healthy eating guidelines, healthy eating promotion and nutrition education are vital tools in the prevention and reduction of obesity. The food industry also has a role to play in tackling obesity i.e. reducing over sized food portions and adapting recipes to decrease sugar, salt and nutrient dense foods. This can make it easier for people to make healthier choices and assist with preventing and reducing obesity.


Eat Right. 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruit and Vegetables. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2014.

Fruit and vegetables – how to get five-a-day. Food Fact Sheet. The Association of UK Dietitians; 2017.

The Eatwell Guide. British Nutrition Foundation; 2016.

Therrien Alex. Rise in cancers ’caused by weight’ . BBC News Website; 2018.

Boseley Sarah. Obesity now linked to 12 different cancers. Guardian Website; 2018.

Cancer Research UK. How to enjoy a healthy diet. Cancer Research UK Website; 2016.