The Wildbiome™️ Project involved members of the Association of Foragers participating in a citizen science research study. They ate only wild food for either 3 months or 1 month. They were monitored for changes in body composition, blood tests for health markers. Their gut microbiome was also tested against a reference control of people eating normal shop-bought food. What we want to know is what would happen to our bodies if we had to go back to eating only wild food? Today the headline results are revealed on BBC Radio 4 ‘The Food Programme’ and outlined below.
A huge thanks to all the participants in the Wildbiome™️ Project who also all teach foraging. They are (in no particular order) as follows:
Three month cohort: Myself (Mo Wilde), Lucy O’Hagan, Lisa Cutcliffe, Matthew Rooney, Rupert Waites, Alexander McAllister-Lunt, Amy Rankine, Craig Worrall, Miles Irving, Gemma Hindi, Michael White and Richard Mawby.
One month cohort: Graham Whitehouse, Ben McNutt, Katy Fennema, Natasha Lloyd, Joanna Ruminska, Stephanie Marsden, Courtney Tyler, Ru Kenyon, Debs Nickolls, Christine Whitehouse, Charlotte Flower and Daniel Evans-Pughe. I would also like to thank Fergus Drennan and Kat Milligan who started but were unable to finish due to life intervening.
None of the microbiome tests would have happened without the assistance of Dan Saladino (presenter of BBC Radio 4 Food Programme and author of Eating to Extinction) who introduced me to Professor Tim Spector OBE and his colleagues at the ZOE Health Study. A huge thank you to you all!
Without funds none of the additional tests would have happened either. We’re grateful to The Association of Foragers for their donation and to everyone who sponsored us via GoFundMe. All funds raised are accounted for in this project and we continue to raise funds for the next study in 2025.
For anyone interested in participating in 2025, please email me via this website and ask to be put on the Wildbiome™️ 2025 list. You will be contacted nearer the time with more details.
The results below are the ‘headline’ results. This will give you an overview of how some key markers moved during the study. Full details of the study will be released at a later date. This takes time as diaries need to be analysed and more participant interviews conducted so that we have a clearer understanding of the individual results and what may have influenced them.
ZOE Microbiome (MB) score
The ZOE Microbiome (MB) score is a measure that ZOE has devised. It looks at the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ bugs as, in the studies done on ZOE participants, they have found this superior to gut microbiome diversity for predicting: blood sugar and fat metabolism, inflammatory measures, indicators of obesity and cardiometabolic health. The ‘good’ bugs are ones that they have associated with good gut health in their enrolled participants, similarly the ‘bad’ bugs are more often associated with poor health in their enrolled ZOE participants. Bear in mind that this is a particular set of people and may not be representative of all nationalities, ethnicities or social groups. There is no current universal agreement of what our gut composition should look like. Researchers may be close to reaching a comprehensive list of the commonly found microbes in the North American and European gut (around 1000 species), however at least a further 2000 unidentified species have been found in other parts of the world. A research study in 2019 highlighted how the composition of gut bacteria differs around the world, and how important it is for the samples that are studied to reflect this diversity. However, this measure helps us to see what happened against a control group.
The group average overall ZOE MB score was 52 at the start of the wildbiome™️ diet compared to the control group 51. At the end of the three months the group MB score was 65 (control 52). So the score changed by +13. In the control group, whether segmented by age or by BMI, the Zoe MB score changed little +1 out of 100.
16 of 24 participants were classified (NHS ranges) as overweight or obese at the start of the study. All participants lost weight except one whose weight remained constant. The ‘obese’ participants on the 3-month trial lost an average 5.6 kg ~ body weight percentage of 16.01% (comparable to trials of some weight-loss injections!). Overweight participants in the 3 month cohort trial lost an average 4 kg. On the 1-month trial overweight participants lost an average of 2.6 kg ~ 9.25% of body weight.
BMI stands for Body Mass Index and is one measure used by the NHS to determine health. The most significant changes in BMI were unsurprisingly in the 3-month cohort. All improved BMI over 5% with
1 person reducing over 20%. In the 1-month group 62% reduced BMI over 5% but no one dropped out of the ‘Normal’ range.
Waist to height ratio is another measure of body composition and more useful in people who are very muscular or have more gynoid fat (as in lipodema). 19 of the participants improved their ratio. The biggest improvements were againin the 3-month cohort.
High blood pressure is associated with risk of heart attack. In the Wldbiome study only 10 people had normal blood pressure at the start of the project. By the end of the project 20 people had normal blood pressure. Of the 4 people with Stage 1 hypertension, 3 dropped to prehypertensive and 1 returned to normal.
There was one participant with Type II diabetes. Their HbA1C level went from diabetic at 65 to normal at 40 within 10 days of starting the wildbiome™️ diet. Their end test result was also 40. Interestingly, after ending the wildbiome™️ diet and returning to a normal, healthy diet, their HbA1C climbed to prediabetic at 46 after 2 weeks.
High cholesterol is another risk factor associated with risk of heart disease. The results here were mixed. Only 3 participants had normal cholesterol (in all six bands) at the start and end of the project. Out of those with high cholesterol or triglycerides 3/5 of participants improved their cholesterol levels with 4 people returning to normal, and 8 still high but improved. However, 2/5 didn’t improve and out of these 5 people’s cholesterol markers increased slightly. Reasons for this need to be investigated.
We tested hs-CRP – a blood marker for inflammation – as some sources suggested that eating more meat can cause inflammation and participants needed to eat wild game (venison, rabbit, etc), fish or shellfish as there are no other significant sources of protein in the early part of the year. Normal is a score of under 5 mg/L. The group average of 2.06 dropped to 1.23, with 3 people who had high inflammation returning to normal. Only one person had high CRP at the end of the project due to minor surgery. So this diet is not inflammatory.
Both group’s average ferritin levels increased probably due to eating game and dark leafy greens.
Magnesium remained pretty constant on average with minor increases or decreases. All participants stayed within the normal range.
Some people’s levels dropped slightly, some increased. This will have varied depending on what they ate.
Out of 23 participants only 6 had normal levels at the start. They had either been taking supplements or lived in the very south of England. Levels improved which was unsurprising as they should in the general population when moving from March – when Vitamin D levels are low after the winter – to June when sunlight increases. Participants spent more time outdoors looking for food. At the end, only 4 people still had low levels although 3 of them had seen slight improvements and 19 had normal levels.