People spotlight series: Denise Teo, Senior Dietitian at Chi Longevity

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our medical experts. Denise Teo is an experienced dietitian with 10 years in the industry. She works with clients to help them achieve optimal health and longevity through nutrition. She has assisted a number of clients to address illnesses and conditions through the power of food and nutrition.

March 6, 2024
Hello Denise! What is your role in the Chi longevity team?  

As a Senior Dietitian at Chi Longevity, my role encompasses a variety of responsibilities aimed at promoting optimal health and longevity through nutrition. As a key member of our multidisciplinary team, I focus on nutrition as a cornerstone of preventative health and healthy longevity.


How do you work with Chi Longevity clients?  

I aim to help clients cultivate a positive relationship with food and achieve lasting improvements in their health andwell-being. I begin by conducting a thorough assessment to gain insight into current eating habits, health concerns, and personal goals. From there, Icollaborate closely with each client to develop tailored nutrition plans thatprioritise whole, nutrient-dense foods while considering individualpreferences, lifestyle factors and cultural considerations. 


What are the most common goals of Chi Longevity clients? 

Goals vary widely. However, some common objectives include weight management, improving energy levels, enhancing athletic performance, managing chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, and promoting overall health and healthy longevity. Regardless of the specific goal, our approach remains the same: to empower clients with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to achieve lasting success.


What made you choose this career path? 

Growing up, I witnessed first hand the profound impact that food choices can have on health and well-being. I had personally suffered from health conditions arising from weight-related issues when I was younger, moving between being overweight to being extremely underweight and back again. These experiences developed an interest in learning how to eat in ahealthy way and inspired me to delve deeper into the science of nutrition.


What are your views on weight loss drugs – do they have an impact on longevity?

Weight loss drugs can be a tool for some individuals struggling with obesity, particularly when combined with lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise. However, it's important to recognise that weight loss drugs are not a magic solution and may come with potential side effects and risks. Furthermore, the long-term impact of weight loss drugs on healthy longevity is still unclear and requires further research. I believe that sustainable weight loss and long-term health are best achieved through healthy lifestyle habits, including balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management.


What are your thoughts on Anti-glucose-spiking supplements?   

While there is growing interest in supplements that claim to mitigate blood sugar spikes after meals, their effectiveness and safety warrant careful consideration. Some anti-glucose-spiking supplements marketed in general media may contain individual ingredients/ compounds which have potential to be used as a complementary therapeutic approach. However, relying solely on such supplements to counteract poor dietary habits is unlikely to be sustainable or effective in promoting healthy longevity. Instead, emphasis should be placed on dietary adjustments and other lifestyle modifications such as regular physical activity, stress management, and adequate sleep, which have been proven to improve metabolic health. 


Is there a healthy longevity diet

While there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for a healthy longevity diet, certain key nutritional factors which are associated with healthy longevity include adequate nutrition (adequate intake of energy and essential nutrients which include key macro and micro nutrients) and a balanced healthy diet. Certain dietary patterns like the Mediterranean or plant-based diets, along with practices like calorie restriction and intermittent fasting, have shown potential in promoting healthy longevity.


Why is CGM important in healthy longevity?  

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) offers valuable insights into how dietary choices and lifestyle factors affect blood sugar levels throughout the day. Maintaining stable blood glucose levels is essential for metabolic health and has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases associated with ageing, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.

 If you could persuade people to change three things about their diet, what would they be?

1. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables: Aim to fill half your plate with colourful fruits and vegetables at each meal to boost your intake of fibre, essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

2. Choose whole grains: Opt for whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread over refined grains to increase fibre intake and support digestive health.

3. Minimise processed foods and added sugars: Limit intake of sugary snacks, and sweetened beverages, which can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and chronic disease risk.

What are some of the most common nutritional mistakes you observe in your clients?

1. Skipping meals or undereating: Missing meals or not consuming enough food throughout the day can lead to overeating later on, disruptions in blood sugar levels, energy crashes and potential nutrient deficiencies.

2. Overconsumption of processed foods: In addition to convenience foods, overreliance on processed foods like sugary snacks, refined grains, and pre-packaged meals can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and an increased risk of chronic diseases due to their low nutrient density and high levels of unhealthy additives.

3. Lack of meal planning and preparation: Failing to plan and prepare meals ahead of time can lead to reliance on unhealthy, easy options or impulsive food choices that may not align with health goals.

What are your thoughts about fasting as a dietary technique? 

Fasting can be a viable dietary technique for some individuals, as it may offer potential health benefits such as weight loss, improved metabolic health, and enhanced longevity. However, fasting is not suitable for everyone, and it's important to approach it with caution, particularly for individuals with certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions.


What is detoxification, and how do you feel about the need for it? 

Detoxification refers to the process by which the body eliminates toxins and waste products through the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, and digestive system. While the body has natural detoxification mechanisms in place, some people may turn to detox diets or cleanses to"reset" their system and promote health. There is limited scientific evidence to support the efficacy of detox diets, and some may be potentially harmful, leading to nutrient deficiencies, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and disruptions in metabolism.


What’s your motto? 

My guiding principle in nutrition is centred on the concept of prevention over cure. I firmly believe that by prioritising preventive measures through lifestyle, we can proactively safeguard against health issues before they arise rather than solely relying on reactive solutions.


What is the best advice you have been given? 

The best advice I have been given is to approach nutrition with compassion, empathy, and non-judgment. Every individual has their own unique journey, challenges, and relationship with food, and it's important to meet them where they are without imposing judgement or shame. By fostering a supportive and compassionate environment, we can empower clients to make positive changes and achieve their health goals with dignity and respect.

How should we think about nutrition and healthy longevity?

A common misconception is the belief that extreme calorie restriction or drastic dietary changes are necessary to promote healthy longevity. In reality, sustainable dietary habits prioritising nutrient-dense foods and portion control are more effective and practical for long-term health. As a healthy longevity dietitian, I emphasise the importance of gradual, sustainable approaches which are tailored to individual needs and preferences, rather than advocating for extreme measures that may not be sustainable or beneficial in the long run.


It is essential to recognise that individuals have unique nutritional needs influenced by factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions. A personalised approach involves tailoring dietary recommendations to an individual’s unique genetic predisposition, metabolic and nutrient needs alongside an in-depth understanding of their dietary habits, health status and goals, thereby allowing for optimisation of nutrient intake to support healthy longevity and overall well-being. Genetic-based diet recommendations can help to enhance nutrient intake, address potential deficiencies, and mitigate risks associated with certain genetic variants.

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