Jane Wolfe enters the world of personalized wellness to discover what’s available to the rising number of consumers wanting to take control of their personal health and wellbeing through bespoke solutions
The expertise and personal service of health stores place them in a unique position when it comes to personalized wellness, however the rising desire for bespoke solutions is driving the growth of online services offering tailored nutrition and supplement options. There will no doubt be questions about the efficacy of some of these services (see p5), but demand is definitely there and is starting to be met by increasingly refined offers.
When it comes to nutrition, ‘personalization’ could loosely be applied to anything from generic but condition-, diet- or gender-specific combination VMS right through to nutrigenomics, which is now being used as a tool to develop solutions that move away from the one-size-fits-all model towards a more individual approach.
Writing in the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report, Cassandra Cavanah and Beth McGroarty state that diet confusion, new tech and the ‘power of me’ are set to propel personalized nutrition into the mainstream. “Today, sophisticated personalized nutrition recommendations based on affordable, self-administered tests are accessible at relatively low costs (and will only keep getting more affordable). In addition, the emerging science of nutrigenomics – the study of how food affects our genes and how genetic variations affect the way we react to nutrients – has been propelled forward by technological advances that enable the measurement of key biomarkers almost in real time … Combine this with today’s ready access to big data and it’s clear why dozens of personal nutrition companies promising to transform our health and wellness through the power of food have emerged in the past few years.”
It’s in the blood
Founded by Sarah Bolt in 2016, data-driven health tech company Forth’s mission is to help people ‘be the best versions of themselves’ via biomarker profiling and personalized advice. The science-led service is aimed at people looking to proactively manage their health, whether that’s improving nutrition, sports performance or general wellbeing.
“Forth gives people a better understanding of their body and areas which would benefit from improvement through a range of home blood tests coupled with a digital health dashboard,” says Bolt. “We give people clear scientific data together with expert advice to help them navigate their way to better health. Tests cover general wellbeing, nutrition, and male and female hormone health.”
Forth’s Nutricheck nutrition test analyzes 13 biomarkers including active B12, ferritin, folate, cholesterol, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and CRP, and shows where results are within the normal reference range as well as comparing results with the average for someone of the same age and gender. Results are made available within two working days of receipt of the sample.
The rise of health tech
is showing that people want
a lot more control over their health
and wellbeing and want
a more personalized approach
to their own unique body
“All tests are analyzed at UKAS-accredited labs and results are reviewed by a UK-registered healthcare professional,” explains Bolt. “Any out-of-range results will be commented on by one of our medical team, including our endocrinologist expert for our hormone tests. We also provide guidance on each biomarker, so people can understand the role it plays in their health and what actions they can take to improve.”
She points out that gaining insights on nutrition isn’t something readily available through GPs, who tend to focus on cure not prevention. “Forth’s nutrition test enables people to take more control to proactively manage their health by understanding the biomarkers key to wellbeing and whether their diet is providing enough of these important nutrients …. Tracking over time also enables people to build up a picture of what’s normal for them and allows the earlier detection of potential issues before they become problems.”
Bolt believes that healthcare around the world is changing: “We are witnessing a cultural shift towards self-care as people adopt digital health solutions to improve their wellbeing and optimize their health. The rise of health tech is showing that people want a lot more control over their health and wellbeing and want a more personalized approach to their own unique body. They want to see their results, understand what they mean for them and know how to use the insights to make improvements to their health. This is evident in the rise of health apps, iWatches, Fitbits, etc. People are keen to track their health, and it is the same for nutrition.”
DTC supplement brand Vitl, which also offers blood and DNA nutrition and vitamin tests, launched in 2015 with the aim of ‘revolutionizing’ the world of personalized nutrition. ‘In the era of Apple’s ground-breaking design and Uber’s convenience, Vitl believed it was time for the supplements industry to catch up and meet both needs,” says founder and CEO Jonathan Relph.
“Vitl’s objective is simple: to inspire people to take a proactive approach to their wellbeing using personalized supplements that are tailor-made to suit them,” says Relph. “By working with leading experts in nutrition, medicine and genetics, the team is able to ensure the quality of supplements, which are all non-GMO and 100% free from synthetic fillers, preservatives and colours, and sourced sustainably where possible.”
Vitl’s ten-minute online consultation asks respondents questions about their diet, lifestyle and overall health goals, then based on the answers, an algorithm puts together a personalized combination of vitamins suited to that individual’s needs.
Vitl’s objective is simple: to inspire people to take a proactive approach to their wellbeing using personalized supplements that are tailor-made to suit them
When it comes to nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, Relph stresses. “Every person has stronger and weaker areas compared to others, and it’s important to recognize and rectify these where possible. The growing popularity for personalization across the wellness industry reflects the consumer demand for products tailored to their needs. More people are taking an active interest in their wellbeing, particularly as a result of the pandemic, where we’ve never had more time to put our wellbeing first.”
Relph says Vitl has also developed the technology to integrate DNA and blood results off the back of its DNA Nutrition tests and provides further context and accuracy with a comprehensive health overview alongside its targeted nutritional supplements.
A new entrant to the sector is Alyve Wellness which delivers bespoke vitamins (Dailys) via a monthly subscription. Founder Sam Price created the company after being ‘overwhelmed by the never-ending supplements available, with no transparent route to finding what ingredients you really need for what wellness goal you’re looking to improve’.
Again, consumers complete an online questionnaire of health and lifestyle questions and select specific health goals on which they want to focus. “Our bespoke IP, which contains custom algorithms and AI, is used to file through our database to then match one of 56 combinations against questionnaire results,” explains Price. “In essence it is very simple, but making it work involved many months of executing perfectly.”
The nutritional database was formulated by Harley Street doctor Rajendra Sharma and homeopathic nutritionist Andrew Wren to provide tailored advice and nutrition unique to each individual. Once the results are matched with the appropriate formula, customers receive their order within 48 hours.
The supplements are vegan-friendly, non-GM, have no added fillers/preservatives and are allergen- and gluten-free. The packaging is 100% recyclable and soon to be 100% biodegradable.
Alyve additionally offers home blood tests for customers interested in knowing ‘how they’re doing under the hood’. Price explains: “Whilst currently our blood tests have no effect on the outcome of your vitamin formulation, they allow you to track and monitor your homeostatic levels. Whilst these are not diagnostic kits, they give you an indicator into any deficiencies or anything which may be wrong. They also allow you to visualize the progression of your personalized vitamins, giving you actual data to see how you’ve improved through the course of taking your Dailys.”
Asked if the company would consider offering DNA testing services in future to increase the degree of personalization, he says this is something the company has considered ‘a great deal for further down the line’. “With one of our co-founders being the CEO of Regenerus Labs, a leading UK diagnostic provider, we have the logistics and resources to integrate these into our services very easily.”
Price says Alyve is committing all its resources to enhancing personalization to each user and perfecting the experience as well as investing in R&D, offering various delivery methods and ‘exploring new avenues of nutrition’.
“Like anything nowadays, consumers are looking for products and services to be more and more personalized,’ concludes Price. “With consumers being more health conscious than ever – knowing they should take something but not what they actually need – there is a massive opportunity for personalized nutrition companies. After all, why would you take a generic supplement your child or grandmother could be taking, when you could have something personalized to you?”
Dragons back Nutri-genetix
Food tech brand Nutri-Genetix (NGX) has secured backing from two investors from Dragons’ Den in the latest series of the BBC show.
Described as the world’s first genetically personalized nutrition shake, tailored to an individual’s own DNA, NGX left the den with a £50,000 investment for 15% of the business from Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman.
Jeremy Poland, co-founder and CEO, says NGX will use the investment for start-up capital to further propel the brand into the UK market and help achieve its goal of making personalized nutrition available to everybody, globally.
“The Den has seen a large number of supplements and meal replacements, but we were able to show the Dragons a detailed level of innovation with our personalized nutrition,” Poland says.
NGX was created to ‘close the loop’ between the data offered by DNA testing kits and what consumers should actually be doing according to the results. It was developed using the science of nutrigenetics, which aims to understand how people metabolize and process different nutrients based on their genetic make-up.
After customers take a swab from the inside of their cheek, a genetic test is run to identify their optimal dietary needs. As part of the process, the lab analyzes over 30 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or genetic variations to find if an individual has limited ability to absorb a certain vitamin and also tests sensitivities to certain foods groups.
A daily shake is then created specific to that person’s daily nutrition requirements and delivered to their door.
The plant-based meal shakes – available in BodyFuel, PowerPack and SuperBerry – are made from natural ingredients and contain no artificial sweeteners, flavours or colouring. They are free from soya, lactose, gluten and GMOs and free from all known allergens.
Campaign for personalized nutrition
In February the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) launched its Food for your Health campaign to highlight the importance of personalized nutrition, as practised by its nutrition practitioners.
The association says current nutrition models fail to address the underlying triggers which affect each person differently and are often the key to optimizing an individual’s health. “The one-size-fits-all model is ineffective and outdated,” says BANT CEO, Satu Jackson. “It’s time to move forward from counting calories and start promoting the nutrient content and quality of food.”
The campaign combines general guidelines with personalized tools to encourage people to focus on their individual health concerns, including tracking tools to monitor body composition and symptoms, fact sheets, practical food guides and recipes.