Sophie Medlin at a conference, advocating for Evidence-Based Nutrition in the dietetics field.

Evidence-Based Nutraceutical Innovation with Sophie Medlin from BDA for London.

Episode Overview

Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, we discuss the critical intersection of evidence-based nutrition and the burgeoning field of nutraceuticals. Our discussion is guided by the profound expertise of Sophie Medlin, the founder of CityDietitians and the Chair of the British Dietetic Association for London. This episode shines a spotlight on how evidence-based nutrition principles are applied in the development of dietary supplements and the impact of these practices on the nutraceutical industry. All topics are centered around the core theme of evidence-based nutrition and its application in the nutraceutical industry. 

Lessons You’ll Learn: Throughout the episode, listeners will embark on a comprehensive journey exploring the pivotal role of evidence-based nutrition in managing and understanding gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS and colorectal dysfunction. Sophie Medlin shares her extensive experience in transitioning from clinical settings to academia and eventually into nutraceutical product development. This narrative offers a unique perspective on the integration of dietary management and supplement innovation. The discussion is about the challenges and triumphs encountered in creating nutraceutical products that align with the rigorous standards of evidence-based nutrition, providing valuable lessons for professionals in the health and wellness sectors.

About Our Guest: Sophie Medlin, a revered consultant dietitian and the Chair of the British Dietetic Association for London, graces this episode as our esteemed guest. With a robust background in gastrointestinal and colorectal health, Sophie has made significant strides in both clinical and academic spheres. Her advocacy for evidence-based nutrition has established her as a leading voice in the dietetics field, often featured in major media outlets. Sophie’s journey from clinical dietetics to academia and nutraceutical product development highlights her dedication to advancing health outcomes through the lens of evidence-based practices. Her contributions have not only enhanced clinical care but also paved the way for groundbreaking innovations in the nutraceutical industry.

Topics Covered: This episode covers a wide array of topics, starting with a deep dive into the intersection of dietetics and nutraceuticals, Sophie Medlin offers her insights into how dietary management influences conditions like IBS and colorectal dysfunction. The conversation progresses to the role of dietitians in nutraceutical innovations, emphasizing the development of vitamins and probiotics. Sophie shares both challenges and success stories from her consultancy work, offering a rare glimpse into the intricacies of product development. The episode concludes with a forward-looking discussion on emerging trends in dietary supplements and valuable advice for professionals bridging dietetics and nutraceuticals, all through the prism of evidence-based nutrition. There are unparalleled insights into the transformative role of dietetics in shaping innovative health solutions.

Our Guest: Sophie Medlin- A Vanguard of Evidence-Based Nutrition in Nutraceutical Product Development

Sophie Medlin is a distinguished consultant dietitian and a prominent chair for the British Dietetic Association for London, known for her expertise in gastrointestinal and colorectal health. Her career, marked by significant contributions to clinical settings and academic research, underscores her commitment to evidence-based nutrition. Sophie’s journey in dietetics began at a young age, leading her to specialize in areas where diet plays a crucial role in patient care and outcomes. Her dedication to evidence-based nutrition has not only set a high standard in dietary management but also positioned her as an acclaimed spokesperson in the field. Frequently featured in various media outlets, Sophie’s insights into the importance of nutrition in healthcare echo her passion for improving patient quality of life through scientifically backed dietary strategies.

In the realm of nutraceuticals, Sophie Medlin’s influence extends beyond traditional dietetics, bringing a unique perspective to the development of vitamins, probiotics, and dietary supplements. Her transition from clinical practice to academia and product development showcases her ability to apply evidence-based nutrition principles across diverse platforms. This interdisciplinary approach has enabled Sophie to contribute to the nutraceutical industry’s growth, emphasizing the need for products that are not only effective but also grounded in solid scientific research. Her work in product development, particularly in consulting on the formulation of nutraceuticals, illustrates her commitment to bridging the gap between dietetics and the broader health and wellness industry. Sophie’s expertise ensures that products are designed to meet specific health needs, reinforcing the importance of evidence-based nutrition in creating targeted solutions.

Looking forward, Sophie Medlin continues to be a driving force in promoting evidence-based nutrition and its application in both clinical and commercial settings. Her current projects and research interests focus on addressing the challenges and opportunities within the nutraceutical industry, aiming to enhance the effectiveness and credibility of dietary supplements. Through her public speaking engagements, academic endeavors, and participation in industry consultations, Sophie is committed to advancing the understanding of how dietetics can inform and improve nutraceutical product development. Her vision for the future includes fostering a closer collaboration between nutrition professionals and the nutraceutical sector to ensure that evidence-based principles remain at the forefront of innovation. As the industry evolves, Sophie’s contributions will undoubtedly continue to shape the landscape of nutrition and wellness, making a lasting impact on how health professionals and consumers approach dietary supplementation.

Sophie Medlin at a conference, advocating for Evidence-Based Nutrition in the dietetics field.


Episode Transcript:

Sophie Medlin: I have had companies in the past say to me, “Oh, we want to create products for men.” And also “What kind of men?” They’ll say “All men.” And I might say, “Well, these men that are doing a lot of exercise or these sedentary men are these men who are older, over the age of 60, or are these young men in their 20s, and what was their lifestyle like? And what are they doing? Like, who is your target?” And it’s very frustrating when you hear back from a fan. And usually, we wouldn’t work with these kinds of companies because they’ll just say, “Well, we want it to be suitable for all men.” I just don’t think you’re going to find a gap in the market for all men. People also have access to a lot of information now and generally want to make more informed decisions about their health, rather than generic choices.

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to NutraPreneur, the Neutral Industry podcast. I’m your host, food scientist, and nutraceuticals consultant, Bethany Jolley. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry. From conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceutical industry. We explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses. Welcome to another exciting episode of NutraPreneur, your go-to podcast for the latest insights in the nutraceutical industry. I’m Bethany, your host, and today we’re honored to have Sophie Medlin, a highly esteemed consultant, dietitian, and chair for the British Dietetic Association for London. Sophie’s expertise in gastrointestinal and colorectal health has made significant contributions to both clinical settings and academic research. She’s also an acclaimed spokesperson for evidence-based nutrition, frequently featured in various media outlets. Welcome, Sophie. It’s so great to have you.

Sophie Medlin: Thank you so much for having me. It’s lovely to be here.

Bethany Jolley: So first off, I think it’d be great if you could share with us how your journey in dietetics led you to specialize in gastrointestinal and colorectal health.

Sophie Medlin: Yeah. So I was really lucky that I knew I wanted to be a dietitian from a really young age. So I ended up getting into the wards and working in hospitals from about 21. I found I love nutrition support, I loved working with people who were struggling in terms of meeting their caloric needs and their protein needs and doing this kind of high-tech intestinal failure stuff. So tube feeding, parenteral nutrition, those kinds of things was really my passion. And then I ended up doing an intestinal failure role. So working with patients who were having colorectal surgery and other bowel surgeries. And then of course, as part of that, you’re also working with liver patients and other gastrointestinal patients. And I found a real, initially, the real niche that I found for myself in patients who live with a stoma. So an ileostomy or a colostomy. And I found I was working with specialist nurses and colorectal surgeons and a really very well-established multidisciplinary team who really taught me everything I know about colorectal. Dietitians don’t learn a lot about colorectal conditions in university. It’s very much something we have to learn on the job and from our multidisciplinary colleagues. So I was working with some well-established people in that field, and they really inspired me and showed me what a massive difference good nutrition support and a nutrition advice can do for the lives of people who live with Ileostomies and colostomies and Stomas, because it can be such a world where people feel very isolated like they’re on their own, and there really still isn’t very good guidelines and solid evidence for what we should be doing with those patients in terms of their nutritional management. So once I’d found that niche, I started working with charities and other organizations in that space, and my interest and my passion for supporting people with those kinds of conditions really grew from there. And now I have the pleasure of being able to talk about these things publicly. And I think if you told me ten years ago I could talk about poo on my social media or be on a TV show talking about poo, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are, and I’m so happy, and I feel very grateful and privileged that the conversations have evolved as they have, and that I’m able to contribute so much to that conversation.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, and I think that is something that’s it’s been an issue for a while now. But a lot of people, like you said, didn’t want to talk about it because it is an uncomfortable topic, but an important one that needs to be addressed.

Sophie Medlin: Yeah, absolutely. And that taboo creates stigma, the stigma creates more shame, more misery, and more hiding of people’s conditions and their suffering, which makes everything worse. And so the more we can talk and share and people can see that there are other people who live with the same condition as them, or the same symptoms as them. The more people can get the right help at the right time, but also the less alone people feel. And that in and of itself just improves the quality of life enormously.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And in your experience, how does effective dietary management impact conditions like IBS or colorectal dysfunction?

Sophie Medlin: The worst that my patients suffer is when they can’t even leave their houses. And it will probably not surprise you, Bethany, but it may surprise other people to realize that people live in fear of having an accident, whether that’s their stoma bag blowing up and exploding, or having fecal incontinence or losing stool from the back passage without realizing it’s going to happen and not being in control of it, some people might say, “Well, of course you wouldn’t want to leave the house after that,” and other people are a bit more stoic about it and just get on with their lives. But a lot of my patients struggle to leave the house and fear leaving the house. And of course, when we feel anxious about our bowels, our bowel function gets worse. And that makes it a real cycle for people. So one of the great privileges of the work that I do now is when people say to me, “Well, I’m able to go out for dinner with my friends now, I go out for coffee and I don’t worry about it. And I’ve been doing this and I’ve got back to the gym and I’m doing all the things I want to do.” That is the absolute icing on the cake of the work that I do. Dietary support can absolutely do that for people. The right dietary support at the right time from an expert can really do that for people and improve people’s quality of life immeasurably. And that’s the reason that I love doing what I do so much, is just seeing the impact on people’s lives and their quality of life, and how they see their future at the end of the work we’ve done together, compared to how they saw their future at the beginning.

Bethany Jolley: Yes. And that’s such a huge impact, such an important role. And you’ve transitioned from clinical practice to academia and now to product development. So how do all of these roles differ and complement each other in the context of nutraceuticals?

Sophie Medlin: Yeah, so I was in the NHS in the UK. So in the National Health Service for seven years, I was an academic for five years. Now I run my clinical practice, CityDietitians, where I still see patients every week and I also do product development work. I think it all kind of ties in together. So I very much see, obviously my clinical experience in the NHS forms everything that I do in my private practice and then learning about what people are asking and what they’re needing, and the sorts of supplements that I recognize people need and benefit from really allows me to support the entrepreneurs that I work with, the founders that I work with on the companies that want to develop products. And I really feel like my academic expertise helps me enormously with the product development side of things, because so much of that is literature reviews understanding what nutrients people might be missing from their diets, what nutrients are likely to elicit the effects that we’re looking for. And the same goes for probiotics. I design functional foods, all of these things. We really need really great research skills and knowledge to be able to properly analyze the literature and come to conclusions about what the right dose is and what’s going to have the effect we want it to have, and all of those sorts of things. So it’s very much that all of my journey has accidentally really led me to the point where I’ve got the necessary skills to fulfill the different parts of my career, which I feel very lucky. And I’m still publishing journals and articles and things like that, still involved in lecturing and still keeping my finger in all of the areas which I love. And I feel very privileged to be able to do.

Bethany Jolley: I think with your expertise in dietetics, you also are able to bring some unique perspectives. And so how do you develop these vitamins and probiotics that you were mentioning?

Sophie Medlin: So in an ideal world, the processes that a founder will come and they’ll say, “We’ve got this idea for a product or a range of products, or we want to solve this problem, or we’ve seen a niche that requires some products that we think would do well.” And what we then hopefully are allowed to go and do is completely explore the literature supporting the use of various different nutrients in that space. We would look at what nutrients are likely to be missing from their target audience. So what are people eating? What are they missing? What are they might not be getting enough of in their diet? What are they likely to benefit from the most? Obviously, what else is out there and what’s missing and what the gaps are, and then bring that data back to the founders and say, “Okay, this is the sort of formula that we think would work.” We also have to consider the presentation that people want it to be in. Do they want it to be in a capsule, in a powder, a spray, or a food product? What is it that they’re looking for? And sometimes that process isn’t as good as that, because sometimes you have founders who already have very fixed ideas about what they want or they may say, well, we’re looking really just to white label a product that already exists, or there may be various different roadblocks to that being ideal, but in the best scenario, as the expert and the person with the most information in the room, you’re able to go and have some free rein to formulate in a way that you know is going to be most scientifically valid and therefore have the best impact on people. And I think as dietitians and as nutrition experts, we really should be trying to create better quality products, improve the quality of the products that are on the market. One of the things that I think is really important to this space is that if you create products that work in inverted commas, people feel a benefit, then they will continue to take them and benefit from them. Whereas if you create products that are just gimmicky, like gummies and that sort of thing, then ultimately people aren’t going to keep buying them because they’re not actually going to get any benefit from them. So it’s really great to be able to create products where people feel a benefit and continue to buy them. Then the founders are happy and everyone’s happy and everything works really well.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely. And how do you integrate evidence-based nutrition into the creation of the products that you’re making?

Sophie Medlin: Yeah, so everything is based on what the literature says and when you work in the nutraceuticals industry, what you’ll find is that there’s a lot of proprietary or in-house research done by manufacturers. So they’ll say, oh, we’ve got the best “Ashwagandha”, for example, this is the research we’ve done on it. But what we also have to do then is dig. What I think is the right thing to do is to then dig into what the wider body of literature around that particular active is looking like, what dose appears to be effective, over what length of time, and all of those kinds of things. Which group benefits the most? What symptoms does it target? How do people feel the benefit? So understanding all of those things by doing thorough literature reviews is really valuable and really important, and takes a lot of time. It also is important to recognize that’s a skill. And now that everyone in the world has access to PubMed, people think sometimes that they can just do it themselves and they understand and they can interpret the data. When in reality, all of these things, every individual paper exists in a body of literature. You may find on paper that says one thing, but ten papers that contradict that statement that you were hoping to use to back up your product. So the literature review, element of it is really important to the quality of our work, how we have the most the best products available in the market, and how we can actually support founders to create products that are much better. And I think it’s such an important part of the work that we do in product development and is often overlooked by other companies that don’t employ nutrition expertise for their products.

Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by If your business needs credit card processing that fully integrates with most major neutral software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built-in features like recurring billing, zero-dollar trials, and chargeback prevention, then visit us at for a free online quote. I think that level of research is so important because, like you said, a lot of brands or manufacturers are just looking at one study and they think, “Oh great, this is saying what we need. There’s the claim, let’s go with it.” But then, as you said, there can be so many other articles that are contradicting that. And so it’s important to dive into everything and make sure that you’re confident and what you’re putting in the product.

Sophie Medlin: Absolutely. And I’m really a fan of stripping back products. So often founders will say, we want to put these five, six, seven actives in. I see some products on the market, some of them are performing amazingly in the market, but there’s like uppers in them and downers in them and things that help sleep and things that counteract sleep and all this stuff. And I think nobody’s thoughtfully formulated that. And I think my process is to try and focus on three actives that we think, as in if it’s a multivitamin product, that’s slightly different. But if you’ve got three actives that are your kind of key talking points for that product and you know they’re working in harmony together, then you’re in a really good space for creating products that have clear marketing messaging, as well as actually doing what you want them to do.

Bethany Jolley: Yes. Are you able to share with us a challenge or a success story from your consultancy work and product development that really reshaped your approach to nutraceuticals?

Sophie Medlin: Yeah. So last year we were lucky enough to bring out the probiotic from company Heights that I formulate for, and it’s now the fastest-growing probiotic in the UK and in Europe. So that’s performing really well on the market. That was my first probiotic that I’d produced, and it really opened my eyes to how much more complicated that side of the business is to vitamin products. So vitamins in capsules are straightforward in the sense that if you want 500mg of something, although there might be less than or more than 500mg in the active powder that you’re putting in, it’s generally you can do some sums and figure out exactly how much of each thing you need to put in and how much space you’ve got in a capsule, for example. Whereas with probiotics, some probiotics don’t play very well together. So we call them kissing cousins. Some of them kill each other off and don’t don’t do very well when they’re in together. Furthermore, some probiotics are, they’re not. Some of them are more fluffy. So have different densities. They have different properties to them which means you can fit more or less of them into a capsule. So there are various interesting and technical issues with probiotic products that we don’t have with vitamin products, which makes them a nice challenge and sometimes a frustrating challenge, because when I send a formula to a manufacturer, ideally, if the answer is no, we can’t do that. I want to understand why so that I can edit the formulation accordingly. But sometimes with probiotics, the answer is, well, we just can’t do that. We just can’t do it because of something like a product being too fluffy. And I’m like, well, there’s nothing I can do to edit my information based on that kind of stuff. So that product took two years to get to the market, partly because of some of these complications, but also because it’s important to us as a company at Heights to make sure that the products are evidence-based. So we did quite a lot of trials before we got it to the market, which is always the right thing to do. But certainly, I enjoy formulating probiotics that come with a lot more challenges than vitamin products.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, it does. It sounds like there’s a lot more to it than just doing basic vitamin products. So what trends do you foresee in the future for the nutraceutical industry, particularly concerning dietary supplements?

Sophie Medlin: I think we’re in a space now where the market is big enough that people should be targeting quite specific groups of people or quite specific problems when they’re producing supplement products. So, for example, if we think that 20% of the population here in the UK live with irritable bowel syndrome, I think the stats are pretty similar in the US. I think we should be thinking about probiotics specifically for people with IBS, rather than this kind of generic gut health type messaging that we’re seeing. I think the same applies to vitamin products. For specific people living with, say, for example, celiac disease, or I think there’s even still some great innovations that could be made for vegans, vegetarians, people who are on pescatarian diets that could really target those gaps in their diets to make sure that things are better. So I guess my message is to anyone who’s interested in this space, that there are gaps in the market still for really targeted and specific products aimed at specific patient groups and population groups. Because the market is so saturated, so many people buying products, you can actually one of the things that we talk about a lot in marketing is if you’re trying to talk to everybody, you’re not actually talking to anybody. And the truth is, we’re in a space now where we can really harness the power of social media and other platforms to create products that are really specific to people and individuals that speak to them, and that can solve genuine problems in the space, rather than it being a kind of generic sticking plaster for all nutritional issues.

Bethany Jolley: That’s a great point. Like you said, a lot of people want to think that their product is for anyone and everyone, but it probably isn’t. So it’s important to know your audience and know who’s actually interested in purchasing your product so that you can formulate accordingly.

Sophie Medlin: Absolutely. I think for me when we’re formulating, that’s an absolutely key part. And I have had companies in the past say to me, “Oh, we want to create products for men.” And also “What kind of men?” They’ll say “All men.” And I might say, “Well, these men that are doing a lot of exercise or these sedentary men are these men who are older, over the age of 60, or are these young men in their 20s, and what was their lifestyle like? And what are they doing? Like, who is your target?” And it’s very frustrating when you hear back from a fan. And usually, we wouldn’t work with these kinds of companies because they’ll just say, “Well, we want it to be suitable for all men.” And I just don’t think you’re going to find a gap in the market for all men. People also have access to a lot of information now and generally want to make more informed decisions about their health rather than generic choices.

Bethany Jolley: That’s for sure. I think consumers have definitely become more educated. What advice would you offer to professionals who are looking to bridge the gap between dietetics and nutraceuticals?

Sophie Medlin: So I think I was really lucky when I started working in nutraceuticals, I joined a company that was really at the very first part of their journey, and we all went on that journey together. And I think the key is experience. So don’t be afraid that you don’t know enough because you have the skills and knowledge. Remember that you’ll be pulling on skills and knowledge that you take from other areas of your work. So, for example, when I’m working with my patients clinically, I understand what questions they’re asking, what nutritional deficiencies they’ve got, what different populations struggle with in terms of meeting their nutritional needs, as well as what they’re looking for in terms of supplements and things like that. And then from my academic expertise, I’ve got the research element to be able to think about how I logically answer this question. And if you’re working with a startup or you’ve been approached, don’t be afraid to do it. You have got the skills. And it’s okay to say, I’ve not done this before, but I know that I have got the relevant skills and expertise to be able to do it, if you help me along the way, and I think that’s a really important message for people, is that a lot of students, when I do education sessions and things, will talk to me about improving, and everyone gets that when they’re trying something new to a certain extent, and that’s okay. You’re in the right place, and as long as you’ve got enough expertise and experience in the area that you’re looking into, you have got the knowledge that’s required of you. If you’re a registered healthcare professional to be able to do these kinds of things. So don’t be afraid. Jump in, but be honest about your experience, or lack thereof, so that people can support you along the way and you’re not misrepresenting what you can offer and also reach out. I recently did a talk for the British Dietetic Association about designing probiotics and vitamin supplements, and I’m really open to people asking me questions about what’s okay and what’s not okay and what they should be doing because I know it’s something that, importantly, we should be involved in as dietitians, we really need to be there because otherwise people will continue to formulate supplements without a healthcare professional or worse still, use someone who isn’t genuinely qualified to do that job, someone who’s calling themselves a nutritionist, for example, but doesn’t actually have the relevant qualifications in that area. So we should be there, we should be doing it, and it’s difficult to access experience. So if people have questions or they’re not sure, feel free to reach out to me because I’m really happy to help and team up with people as well who if you feel like you need a bit of extra support, I lean on my colleagues for things like health claims information and reviewing data and all that sort of stuff. And, you know, I’ve got a brilliant intern who works with me and helps with that kind of stuff. So it’s worth recognizing. Sometimes these things need a bit of a team approach.

Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. And that’s a great point, because I think there are a lot of people out there who feel like they have the knowledge and expertise, but they still don’t understand certain areas or what’s needed to fully produce a dietary supplement, for instance. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that there are individuals out there like you and companies out there that are actually very willing to help. So I think it’s important to find the right connections, find the right partnerships to really make your product and your idea successful.

Sophie Medlin: Yeah, definitely. And if there are any founders or companies who are interested in designing nutrition products, most importantly have nutrition professionals on board because they will make your products better. They will make your products something that people want to continue to buy. And they lend so much credibility to your products, which is so useful for investment. It’s so useful for the market. And telling people that you’ve got credible experts on board is such a valuable aspect.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, and considering all of your achievements, what’s next for you in this dynamic field? Are there any upcoming projects or areas of research you’re particularly excited about?

Sophie Medlin: Yeah, so definitely I’m doing some research currently into the impact of social media on people’s food choices and habits, and how we use social media as a public health platform. Now what the benefits and downsides of that are continuing to build CityDietitians? So the clinic business we’ve got 15 dietitians on the team now, and we’re growing, which is lovely. And I think that we’ve been really privileged to benefit from the growth of virtual consultations and being able to see people all over the world and all over the country. I’m currently writing a book, which I can’t really talk any more than that about. We’re hoping to get the TV show recommissioned. And yeah, I’m lucky enough to be going to speak at lots of different conferences about supplements and things like that over the next 12 months. So lots of lovely things going on. I feel very privileged.

Bethany Jolley: Yes. That’s fantastic. Lots of exciting things this year for you.

Sophie Medlin: Absolutely.

Bethany Jolley: Well, that brings us to the end of a truly informative episode. A big thank you to Sophie for sharing her invaluable insights and experiences. For those wanting to learn more about Sophie’s work, or to delve into the science of dietetics and nutraceuticals, we’ll have links available on our website. Don’t forget to subscribe, share your thoughts, and follow us on social media for more deep dives into the world of nutraceuticals, join us next time on NutraPreneur for more enlightening conversations. Stay curious and informed. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of NutraPreneur. If you enjoy the show, please subscribe and better yet, leave us a review as it really helps us grow the show.