When are scores changing?
Score updates will be rolled out to all ZOE users on Monday 13th July at 11:00 BST / 06:00 EDT.
Why are your scores changing?
We are constantly updating your scores to improve the advice we give you. We do this in response to emerging insights from our ongoing scientific research. Most of these changes happen gradually and you may not have noticed them before. However, we are now releasing a large piece of work which should be a significant improvement to your personalized scores. This means that if you've been using our app for some time you may notice some of your scores drop (or increase 🙌 ) to reflect these changes.
Here we will explain some of those changes but rest assured that the ZOE app continues to be your best source of truth on what to eat for your body.
How can you see your new scores?
You can see your new scores by searching for an item. Everything you add to your journal from today onward should have the updated scores. However, for meals you've added to your journal in the past, you may need to tap the meal to refresh your score (we're working on a fix for this). Day scores should automatically update to reflect your new scores.
How did we make these improvements?
Many of our score changes are informed by new discoveries from our PREDICT studies. We also continually review other research studies to incorporate the learnings of other scientists into our scores system.
As part of this we have significantly improved how we calculate your personalized responses, based on more data and research. These new scores have significantly more variation between individuals based upon your own test results.
In addition, earlier this year we asked a panel of 13 scientific advisors, each a world-leading nutrition expert in their own right, to score a variety of foods particularly those where the long-term health impact has been controversial (e.g. meat, eggs, cheese, etc). They often didn't agree but we've taken their input onboard where there was strong alignment.
What improvements did we make?
Scores are further personalized
Our research has shown that gut health, blood fat and blood sugar are much more interrelated than expected. We've made improvements to our scores to reflect this which will make your scores better suited to your body.
For example, a growing body of evidence indicates that refined carbs can lead to unhealthy levels of fat in your blood. This now means that those of you with poor blood fat control need to avoid refined carbs much more than we recommended before. So make sure breads and pasta are only occasional treats.
We've also worked to develop a better spread of scores across other carb-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. This may affect some people's scores significantly.
As we are improving the personalization, different people will see different changes but here are some high level improvements you might notice:
Many fruit scores are changing
Long-term studies show that fruit has the same health properties as vegetables, which we believe is because of its very strong impact on gut microbes. However, there is significant personalization here, so if you struggle to manage high blood sugar, then some fruits will now score lower.
Fruit juice is not as beneficial as whole fruits. So scores for juices will generally fall. We have done some significant new research, which we will publish in a major academic journal, showing that certain types of blood sugar spikes and crashes can lead to increases in hunger and increased calorie consumption. Sugary drinks, even fruit juice, are particularly likely to lead to these results.
Some fermented food scores are increasing
Fermented foods are associated with a host of microbiome benefits. However, identifying fermented foods in our database has been tricky. We still have some way to go on this but we have made improvements to scores of many fermented items including yogurt, cheese and kefir. We hope to include fermentation as a beneficial factor for other fermented products (such as kimchi, fermented vegetables and kombucha) soon.
Poultry scores are changing
Following our score review, our scientific advisors believed that poultry and some meats scored too highly for some people. We don't think those people need to remove meat and poultry from their diet entirely but you should eat them in moderation and focus on other sources of protein (such as beans and legumes). Our scores now reflect this and you should be able to achieve a 75+ day or meal score with small quantities.
Red meat and processed meat scores are also changing
Scores for red meat and processed meats will vary more depending on your ability to metabolize fats. These items have always scored quite low in our system. Which is something we feel strongly about. Our research from PREDICT shows that red and processed meat are linked with poorer gut health. High intake of these meats is also linked to higher risk of metabolic conditions such as heart disease, as well as poorer overall health outcomes.
Not all fiber is equal
We still think fiber is essential to your diet and that most people don't get nearly enough. However, we are now taking a much more sophisticated view of what sorts of foods provide fiber that supports your gut health. As a result we now distinguish fiber into multiple types. Unprocessed food is particularly good, because it contains the complex chemicals that your gut microbes crave. Ultra-processed sources are bad - simply adding some fiber on the side in no ways equals the complexity of real food. So, processed food with added fiber (such as many cereals) are likely to see their score drop.
High salt content lowers scores
We now penalize items which are high in salt. Both the WHO and American Heart Association recommend limiting salt intake due to its impact on heart health. It will not be shown as a sub-score for all foods, but we are working on this.
What improvements are coming next?
We are continually improving our database and scores in order to give you the best advice for your body. Our database is great for generic foods, but we don't always get the 800,000 barcode scanned foods right. We already mark verified items with a ✔️ but intend to more clearly flag how confident we are about the database quality in the future.
We are also making other changes to our database which will improve scores for branded items but when that is finished you will still see a spread of scores. Different brands do vary in nutritional content, and we think it's great that the ZOE app can help find the best one for you.
So, have you been eating the wrong foods for your body?
No. Many of you have already seen great results in your energy, hunger and weight. We hope you continue to see that.
Our advice until now has been the best available and isn't changing drastically. The recent update will bring more personalization, accuracy and nuance to your scores.
As our research operates at the frontier of nutritional science it's likely that our scores will continue to evolve. We hope you're excited to continue on that journey with us and discover new things about food and your body together.