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InsideTracker CEO: ‘The one-size-fits-all intervention approach to nutrition makes no sense - Personalization is the future’

By Stephen DANIELLS , 31-Mar-2014
Last updated on 23-Apr-2014 at 16:34 GMT

InsideTracker recommends foods and supplements to optimize biomarkers
InsideTracker recommends foods and supplements to optimize biomarkers

It may have been said before, but the future of nutrition is through personalization, especially for athletic individuals who want to achieve the optimal and not just normal levels, says Rony Sellam, CEO of Segterra, the company behind InsideTracker.

Cambridge, MA-based InsideTracker is already building a stand-out client list, which includes Olympians, players and coaches from the big pro sports in the US, and serious amateur athletes, all of whom are drawn to the company’s personalized nutrition and lifestyle interventions based on a simple blood test of select biomarkers.

“Personalization is the future,” Sellam told NutraIngredients-USA, “and that’s the premise that gave the idea to the company.”

“The one size fits all intervention approach makes no sense. We need to personalize and customize the intervention.”

Beautiful blood

Unlike other personalized nutrition companies, InsideTracker is only interested in blood. The company does not perform genetic tests.

“Blood is liquid gold in understanding how our bodies work,” said Sellam. “Blood is beautiful. It changes on a regular basis whereas genetics don’t.”

While the current concept of using blood tests to evaluate health is for a doctor to assess if you have normal or abnormal values, InsideTracker is interested in optimal levels.

“There is a tremendous amount of evidence to allow us to understand if I am optimal for certain biomarkers,” said Sellam, “and the ones we’re interested in are those linked to health, longevity, and physical performance.

“We focus on the biomarkers that can be influenced by nutrition and health.”

Inside vs outside

Consumers are currently being bombarded by companies offering all kinds of tracking, most notably companies offering wearable technology companies with sensors or trackers. Such technology is based on “outside tracking”, said Sellam. “It may be interesting, but it’s a summary of what you’ve already done. We’ll tell you the future. We’ll tell you what you need to do if you want to climb Mount Everest.”

And this is where the future is heading, he said, with people set to focus more on tracking the inside rather than the outside. The ability to obtain data is also becoming easier and easier, he said, which will facilitate this shift.

“In three years you’ll be able to pee, spit, and bleed on to your iPhone and it will tell you all about your insides.”

 

Tests

The company was founded by Gil Blander, who spent five years at MIT and has done extensive research into biological markers in the blood. And it’s not just stars of track and sports field that are associating themselves with the company: InsideTracker’s scientific advisory board reads like a who’s who of the best researchers of nutrition and aging in the US, including Prof David Sinclair from Harvard Medical School, Prof Jeff Blumberg from Tufts University, Prof Lenny Guarent from MIT, and Prof Roger Fielding from Tufts University.

The result of all this brain power is a portfolio of different tests and science-driven nutrition and lifestyle interventions that empower people to optimize their markers.

The Performance test, which includes 20 biomarkers and is priced at $299, is the company’s best seller and flagship product, said Sellam. A smaller test, called Fitness, covers 12 biomarkers and costs $149. (see image right

Image taken from insidetracker.com

for a list of the biomarkers measured)

The company just launched a test with a panel of 30 biomarkers, said Sellam. The new Ultimate test delves deeper into liver health, iron, and hormones and costs $499.

When the product is purchased it comes with a lab slip for a local lab in about 1,700 lab locations, he explained, with data integration with InsideTracker. Users will be able to see their results a few days after taking the test, and whether the values are optimized or not optimized.

The company has a bank of 7,500 food items, and if supplements can help then Inside Tracker has no hesitation to recommending them. “Some people can raise their B12 levels using food, for example, whereas for others nothing happens with food,” explained Sellam.

“My wife, she has a fantastic blood profile,” he added, “but her B12 was not optimized. It was normal but not optimal. Because she found that she was already eating a lot of the food we recommended, we looked at supplements.”

“Another thing we do, which is very cool, is that we don’t look at the biomarkers in isolation. So if you’re ferritin level is low, but your cholesterol is good, we’d recommend red meat, but if your ferritin is low and cholesterol is high, we’d come up with another intervention.

“We weave the biomarkers together to produce the overall recommendation.”

Sellam added that the company will also talk about supplements in a negative way, like if a user has high zinc levels then they’d be told them to stop taking zinc supplements

“We do include supplements in our recommendations, and we also include the science behind the supplements,” he said.

“The interesting part is to be able to tweak and adjust because we’re all processing these things differently. And we can do the adjustments every few months to keep the body at the optimal levels.”

No brand recommendations

Inside Tracker does not recommend any supplement brands, he explained, and the company tries to keep it educational. Dosages are recommended, but the scientific reference is the only information it provides.

While InsideTracker does not recommend any brand, it does have a tie-in with the Shaklee Corporation, which offers InisdeTracker’s blood analysis tests and then tailors a supplement plan to optimize the nutritional status of the user under the uOptimized personalized path.

Next stop: Aging

With a team that includes longevity expert Dr David Sinclair, it should come as no surprise that InsideTracker is also planning on touching more directly on aging in the future, and analysing the longevity aspect of blood analysis.

“We’ll be using that as a motivator on choices to better lifestyle and nutrition,” said Sellam.

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