In 2018, ZOE launched PREDICT, the largest nutrition science study in the world, using new technologies such as machine learning and microbiome sequencing to enable nutritional research at an unprecedented scale.
ZOE discovered that food impacts each of us very differently, with genetics playing only a small role in this difference. The reason? Our unique gut bacteria, which inform every aspect of our health and are shaped by our diet. The groundbreaking findings have been published in top peer-reviewed journals Nature Medicine and Nature Metabolism.
As the company was preparing to launch its personalised nutrition programme to help people eat for improved health, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. ZOE took everything it had learned from running the PREDICT programme, and in March 2020 launched the COVID Symptom Tracker app to rapidly advance research on COVID-19. In just a week, one million people downloaded the app.
In those first few months, ZOE discovered that there were over 20 symptoms of COVID, and most importantly, that anosmia was a key predictive symptom of COVID of wild type COVID.
Since then, the ZOE COVID Study has had over 4.7 million ZOE COVID Study contributors join the app and published over 40 scientific papers in journals such as The Lancet, Nature Medicine, The Oncologist and Nature Food. Covering topics ranging from cancer and COVID risk, to side-effects of COVID vaccines to vaccine effectiveness over time.
The study changed the course of the pandemic, keeping the public, healthcare professionals and the UK government informed about how COVID-19 rates were changing in near-real time.
The Study also created a new model for how researchers engage study participants. ZOE provides all collected data and findings back to contributors first, in easily digestible data and content, so they can see exactly what their logging enables. Contributor feedback also informs how studies are designed, what we choose to study, content creation and app experience.
ZOE’s PREDICT programme and the ZOE COVID Study have demonstrated four key things:
1. Anyone can make an important contribution to science from their own home
2. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health, whether it’s food or a vaccine, we all respond differently
3. Symptoms are an important way to understand immune health, and immune health plays a central role in most diseases and overall health
4. Putting participants first motivates them to commit to long-term research projects
With these four key learnings, ZOE believes it can use the power of community science to tackle global health issues.
Now, with the world’s largest community of at-home scientists committed to logging their health, ZOE is in a unique position to explore human health on an enormous scale. As we move forward, to reflect this mission to expand our research beyond COVID, the ZOE COVID Study is now known as the ZOE Health Study.
Using ZOE's signature approach of home-based, app-enabled data collection, the ZOE Health Study seeks to understand what the symptoms we experience day-to-day and modifiable behaviours such as diet can tell us about our overall health. ZOE believes studying at this scale will reveal the things we can all do to improve our health and protect ourselves against future health conditions.
The ZOE Health Study empowers everyone to fight major diseases from the comfort of their home, for the benefit of science but also for their own health.
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