Today, I’m joined by Ari Tulla, co-founder & CEO of Elo Health, a precision nutrition company.
Using biomarkers from at-home diagnostics tests, AI software, and expert guidance, Elo delivers supplements calibrated for its customers’ unique needs. Envisioning a healthier future, the company hopes to transform food from the cause of disease into a source of healing.
In this episode, we discuss the company’s approach to smart nutrition, including blood testing, remote coaching, and personalization. Plus, Ari explains how innovations like at-home diagnostics and health wearables will unlock the power of food as medicine.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Elo is transforming the smart nutrition industry
- Why nutrition subsidies will significantly increase in the next decade
- How Elo is leveraging AI to provide personalized nutritional supplements
Links & Resources
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- Visit the Fitt Insider jobs board
- View current Fitt Insider investment and get in touch
This is a machine-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Smart nutrition. It’s personalized. Each product is made for you based on in-depth analytics of your biochemistry, digital biomarkers, and your health goals. It’s precise, delivering you nutrients that are producing the optimal outcome.
It’s also proactive. It gets better over time. It learns about you to really offer you a better experience, making you feel better from a health perspective.
Welcome back to the Fitt Insider podcast. I’m your host, Joe Vennare.
Today I’m joined by Elo Co-founder and CEO, Ari Tulla. In this episode we discuss the company’s approach to smart nutrition, including biomarker testing, remote coaching, and personalized supplements. Plus, Ari explains how innovations like at-home diagnostics and health wearables will unlock the power of food as medicine.
Let’s get into it.
Hi, Ari, welcome to Fitt Insider. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you. Wonderful to be here.
I’m looking forward to the conversation. We were chatting a little bit offline before this, and there’s certainly a lot that we can get into from the industry, to trends we’re seeing, but I think most importantly and upfront I want to talk about Elo and what you’re building, and how it’s going so far.
So to kick things off can you introduce yourself and tell us about Elo?
Absolutely. My name is Ari Tulla. I’m from Finland, of all places, living in the Bay Area for the last 15 years. I’ve been really involved in biohacking, in the healthcare market, and lately in the last few years in nutrition very deeply. My hat is basically I’m an operator, entrepreneur, CEO, and also a small investor in about 50 companies in this space. So I look at it very broadly.
But briefly about my new company, Elo. We are trying to build the first smart nutrition company that is really focusing on turning food from the cause of disease to medicine. I think the big question you might ask is, “What is smart nutrition?”
20 years ago I worked at a company called Nokia. We were in the heyday of the mobile at the time. I joined a team building the first smartphone in ‘95. Some people might remember that old device; first video, first MMS, first web browsing on a device, and we called it a mobile computer, not a smartphone.
I’m sure people had a whiteboard somewhere saying smartphone, but they picked the mobile computer and that didn’t stick. It became a smartphone. So I don’t make the same mistake twice. So we wanna call smart nutrition and what it is, it’s personalized. It’s product is made for you. based on in depth analytics of your biochemistry, digital biomarkers, and also your health goals, they are, it’s precise, grounded in the latest science and delivering your nutrients that are producing the optimal outcome for you.
And it’s also proactive. So smart nutrition. It gets better over time. It learns about you and we use learning cycles and AI to really offer your better experience that is making you feel better and also feel better from the.
So as you’re talking about this and the explanation, a, a few things are top of mind, right? You say smart nutrition, the, the, the idea of food as medicine comes up, and then obviously the personalization aspect of taking these inputs and then knowing what to do, teaching your, the, both, this, this data and analytics, and then the, the, your body, right. What you need to be putting into it and how to do that. So if we like zoom, What does that experience look like for the user? How and what kind of data sets biometrics are you tapping into? How are you doing that? And then how does it get kind of spit out on the other side?
A great question. So we talk about the nutrition broadly. the first product we, we came out this year is, smart supplements. And we did a one year long trial with hundred of people last year, very hiding kind of beta type of thing. And we were questioning ourselves that first, can we build this? the second question was, can we have outcomes for people that are positive?
And then thirdly, are people willing to pay and are people interested to stick with the service like this. So how does Ella work today? in the beginning, we start by analyzing your blood biomarkers. We connect your wearable devices, aura, apple health, whoop, whatever you have into Ella, and also look at your health history.
With AI, we turn that into the right supplement plan. Think about, personalized vitamins and supplements that are helping you to fill the gaps you might have in your nutrient today. And each month we are delivering you supplements in a, in a daily packet. think about, you know, 30 daily package coming the way that are customized you with your, name on. and then we also are pairing a dedicated nutritionist who is supporting you our video. And in the app, in the messaging all day, every day, And every 90 days, we are retesting you Of course, we have a feedback loop from your verbal devices. Think about like weight, or it could be your recovery or sleep, but every 90 days we are retesting your, your blood biomarkers to really some the outcomes.
And, and we are trying to build a system that is radically transparent, you know, as much as we do, there’s no surprises because today And why we picked supplements as the first market to enter enter, is that 150 million people today in the us are taking supplements. million people don’t know if they are taking the right ones or if they do anything good for them.
So that was the premise in a way that can we add a little bit of transparency into this equation? and also, can we make the system better? Because every time you built a new company, a new product, you, you are trying to make it 10 times better than the status quo. And today, if you go to Amazon or you buy to go to vitamin shop and you buy, a pill bottle that you don’t know, what’s in.
And then you have to go there over again and again, every two months, I mean, that’s pretty bad experience. You can open your cabinet and you can see 15 bottles, you know, there’s dust on them. You haven’t used them. You don’t know. When did you buy them? You don’t know if they are expired already. We wanna clean all that mess out and make it automatic for you to get the right supplements the right time, that help you feel nutritional gaps that you might have.
I, I think, anybody who’s taken supplements has gone through that experience. Right? You, you do the research, hopefully. Or you somehow end up on this particular vitamin or brand, and then you use it and you’re, you’ve already paid for it. And now you’re going through the kind of habit process of remembering to take it.
And you have no idea if it’s doing anything, you have no idea if it’s working or if you’re taking the right doses or what impact it’s having on you. and of course, so having this type of feedback loop that’s, that’s instructing you and making sure that you’re getting the right things at the right times is important. but so much of that, right, is. it’s called supplement because it’s supplementing hopefully what we’re, what we’re eating normally. And you mentioned bringing the, using the technology to bring the nutritionist into that loop, and instructing what aspect of this is, whether it’s meal planning or diet or helping you navigate, like what you’re supposed to be eating at the onset.
Yes. you are so right on saying that the supplements are supplements, they are needed. And it’s kinda interesting in the way that, I’m being an athlete all my life and, and I’ve been trying to be very healthy and, Three years ago, first time ever. I, I took a supplement pill. I had never taken a single pill before I had maybe taken like, like, you know, fist oil in a, in a spoon, but that’s about it, but I’ve been eating pretty well.
So my, my team takes my, my data. So what we do today at L LOE, that’s the 13 biomarkers. not just mineral vitamins, but we also do, the lipid panel. Think about your cholesterol, LDL, HDL V D triglycerides. We also looking at the diabetes biomarker A1C, and then we look at B12 D uh ferratin and also very importantly, also looking at your inflammation.
We do homocystine. That’s a pretty good, you know, they look on your health overall and many of the biomarkers you have never done with your doctor. So, okay. I do that first time and my team says that, you know, my vitamin D is, is super low 15 1 5. You should be around 40 50 in the measurement. And I had been low vitamin D all my life.
So we connected, my apple health data from my Kaiser Permanente, from my quest labs and LabCorp into, into apple health and into Elo. And we see that I’ve been low vitamin D for many years. Nobody ever told me about that. And that was before COVID. And of course, you know, my team was, you know, then supplementing me and they realized that I had to be supplemented, something like eight to 10,000 IU vitamin D per day, to get my values up because I had two mutations in my DNA that made me a poor metabolizer.
So I was like, wow. I mean, I had no idea. And then suddenly I get my vitamin D up. I also get my vs. And I was feeling better and I I’m pretty active guy, but I was feeling even more active. I left better. And over the last three year, three years, I have become a believer in this idea that, you know, yes, you can eat well, you should eat well.
But the current food we eat is lacking nutrients. Even if we eat the same more food we did 30 years ago, we don’t get the same amount of, you know, iron. And different nutrients. So you kind of have to supplement. And we are looking at now hundreds of people that we’ve been testing over the last two years, 95% of people they come to Elo with.
One of the biomarkers are listed being red or yElow, 95% of people. And they’re always surprised. So it’s, it’s really interesting that we are living in a world today where the, the food system is giving us food that is just poor on nutrients we need in our bodies.
I think that’s really important. It’s it’s interesting to hear you talk about. As I had a similar experience just going out, again, very active athlete. I eat very healthy, by every measure and wasn’t using Elo, but used a, call it very expensive, kind of executive nutrition, health coaching program.
And had everything tested, and same type of experience was deficient and certain, minerals, vitamins, and just some things as you described, it were in like the yElow and even red. And one of the things that I thought was interesting about that experience is they were explaining the results to me was, you know, there are the kind of standard.
You know, ranges that people fall within. And many of it’s like, technically you’re in this standard range. And so nobody would flag this, but for you and for someone who wants to be high performing or to optimize their health or to be, you know, in some type of level of, you know, hopefully. Good conditioning to be able to, to you know, strive and push themselves in whatever field they want.
They’re like, you’re never gonna be able to do that. So while these things wouldn’t raise any red flags, like there’s still of concern. How do you think about like, what is the quote unquote normal range versus like how then you get that to an optimal level. And is, is that part of the kind of current program or even something that you’re looking at going forward?
I love the two points you said, number one, I think, that is a really important point is that you went to a, clinic with the real people, likely working with you, helping you, giving you the context, not just some app or, you know, AI giving you data or in a worst case, your doctor giving you PDF that you don’t know.
So there has to be a real person involved because in the end. Getting better, staying healthy is all about finding the right behaviors for you that are right. And they might be different to you than they are for me. So that it’s really key to have a person helping you, like, you know, personal trainers do work, dieticians do work, and that’s why we, we added one into the mix.
But when it comes to the other point of, the ranges, I didn’t know anything about that. Maybe, maybe decade ago. And since then, I’ve been doing very, dedicated focus on testing my blood, almost every quarter. And I’ve been using all sort of devices again, match. And from like the body scans, 3d body scans to EMRs full body and, you know, sequencing my methylations, sequencing my DNA many times over.
But the bottom line is. When you go to a doctor’s office today and they find out that your let’s say vitamin D would be, 21, you know, 15, 20 is super low. And they gonna say like you know, you on, on a, on a yElow, area or do nothing like they did for me because they don’t really care about the vitamin D.
But if You. A1C the diabetes, marker is 5.7 or 5.8, depending a bit on state urine, or the health system. You. Suddenly over time, over that test period. So yesterday you test 5.6, then tomorrow you test 5.7 or eight, you become pre-diabetic. And if you test 6.0, you become diabetic. So you basically have this, like nobody tells you when you are going from really healthy to the yElow, and then they only flag it when you get to the red area and you will be medicated for That’s what we do today in the healthcare system. and it’s super frustrating. and it happened to me personally because my, A1C it’s been fairly high for all my life. about 5.5, 5.8 And last year I tested 5.8 at Kaiser Permanente and they made me prediabetic. So my medical record says I’m prediabetic by.
That’s not true. I mean, I’ve done my insulin resistant test. My glucose. I used, levels health for over a year. my glucose never spikes anymore. I’m mainly in more like a keto mode yet. I have a pretty high A1C because that’s way I was born. So that’s the problem. And we spend a lot of time at yElow to define the red, yElow, and the green.
And in green, we defined the optimal and the optimal can be different for a young man to a young woman, to an old man, to an old, and even there are difference. I think if we are looking more in detail, different type of people with different type of diets. So this is I think the key aspect that many people don’t realize and know.
And, I don’t think we know necessarily as a, as a scientific community yet, what the exact op optimal is for you and, and for me, but at least we now know that when you get to the yElow, you can do something about it and go back to the cream. And one more point on this every day, you get older, your values get worse.
So if you are okay today and you’re 32, I can assure you when you’re 50 years old, your values are not gonna be great anymore. And I’m posting, I’m turning 44 in two days and, and feeling kind of the weight of the time. and that’s why I’m investing my time in, in this stuff as a person, because I want to live great life for the next 30 years.
Yeah, absolutely. And, happy early birthday as you’re getting ready for that.
And I, I, I feel the same way in, in so many respects, like trying to. Figure all these things out and I’m super invested in it. I’ve now been doing this type of lifestyle for the better part for the majority of my life, almost right.
You know, 15, almost 20 years and still, and I’m willing to spend money on it. I’m willing to spend time on it. I’m completely committed to it. And still I find myself. Searching for answers. How do I put the nutrition aspect with the physical fitness aspect, with the sleep, with the mental health. And then of course, you know, you layer on family and, you know, social life and all those other things we can even keep separate for the sake of this conversation.
How do you, or do you foresee a time where this is. More integrated where it is not nutrition is siloed from fitness is siloed from, you know, you zoom out all the way to, we were talking about going to the doctor’s office in primary care and all those experiences such that somebody who maybe doesn’t have the time and the money and the discipline to do those things can have this experience where it feels turnkey or seamless.
Are we a far way away from that? Or is that something that’s more, kind of in the near future?
It’s really the key question, because if you think about. and I come from last decade, I spent in big healthcare running two companies in, in the enterprise setting, working with all the health plans, all the hospitals and many of the government agencies. So I was, I had a lobby team lobbying, you know, the, the DC box to, to make decisions and, and write different laws.
So, and that’s kind of funny, you know, to come from outside of the country and, you know, kind of ending up into the political system and talking to people. you are very right about the fact that, you know, we have to be able to integrate healthcare and nutrition together and think about healthcare is $4 trillion a year in the us.
Nutrition food is about 6 trillion, 10 trillion combined, you know, half of our CDB. Is food and, and health and what if they could work together. And there would be this, con you know, middle part that we can actually invest some of the health dollars into the right nutrition. That would be a game changer.
And that would be the only way I think, to lower the cost of healthcare. And there are a few things I think that are, are problems today. If I take a, a moment, talk about the health macro, you know, we are 4% of people in, in America. In the us, we spend 40% of the global healthcare cost, 40%. We are 10 times over indexing.
The market, we are 28 million people today. In the us who don’t have access to healthcare today, 28 million people. And those are often the people who eat the worst food, the, the highly processed, the poison that we are creating today at the low cost food price is lower today. Well, now we inflation going up a bit, but food is lower cost than it’s ever been in the history of man.
I mean, it’s super low today. And lastly, we spent 2.9% of the 4 trillion in any type of preventative. We spend 50%, 2 trillion a year on chronic condition management, chronic condition management means we are managing people who are sick, not healing, any of them. And, and that’s kind of just going to the wrong direction every day.
We are not getting any better and we are investing how much in wellness, you know, hundreds of billions a year in wellness and we are not getting any better. So we really have to find a way. To focus on the human health in a new way. And in my opinion, it is simple. It is about nutrition. It’s about sleep and recovery.
And it’s also about the mental health side. I’m not even saying, exercise because it’s part of the, the, the kind of ment side I mean, I would rather get people to walk in the forest than think about the next PEloton. Because we are not even doing the basics at all.
Correct. As a macro, I think most people who are listening this today, I mean, we are, we already know this and we are, we are, we are way beyond where the average American is today, but the average people are sick. 80% of people today are, oh wait. And we have to do something about that. Otherwise, you know, it will bankrupt us as an.
Yeah, it’s I feel like part of the conversation that I come back to time and time again is, you know, it’s this, I describe it as a contradiction kind of pulling in opposite directions. Maintaining that perspective of like the best majority of people are not doing anything in terms of any type of healthy habits, physical activity, you name it, eating, as you say, highly processed, poison food.
It can’t, in some cases shouldn’t even be described as food who knows what it actually is. but then the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are spending. An exorbitant amount of money on physical fitness and classes and products and you name it wearable devices. And it’s like, we want that to strive in that direction to innovate and to drive the prices down and find solutions and create this integrated system.
But at the same time, it’s like, How do we get it to the people who need it most and balance that, pessimism, right. And that the optimism of the innovation. and so as you think about, you mentioned with Elo, starting from the position of, you know, putting a, a human in the loop to to, the nutrition piece, using the supplements as kind of the, the wedge into the broader market, how do you see that kind of product and experience evolving over time?
For for us. we, we. Focus on, holistic nutrition. and I think over the next 24 months at Elo, we are gonna have an array of products coming out to market. different type of, I think, supplement products. I hope we also get to get to more food products. but we wanted to start with the supplements because like I said, there’s a massive problem.
150 million people. Taking supplements that might not do. anything might even be harmful. and when it comes to the innovation, you always need to build a You need to have a box you can innovate in If you pick everything and you try to go to the meals and food automatically in the beginning, you will fail. I mean, we know, and you, you know, many companies who have been trying this stuff and you talk to many of us who are now in the forefront of this movement. And I, I know it’s gonna be bloody difficult to do. just, you know, I mean, I, I pricked my finger today five times to test something new. I mean, even collecting blood at home is not yet in the limelight where it would be ready for a hundred people it’s ready for the early adopters.
Yes. but, we need to improve in every possible way we can. And I think for, for, at Ella, we think about the smart nutrition. Like what can it be? And I think there’s a really interesting momentum that happened now because of COVID because of this sift we have had in the world, when we were spending more time at home, we couldn’t go to a store.
We couldn’t go to the doctor’s office. We couldn’t go to the lab. So three things have happened. And I mean, you’ve been talking about this many times here, but, you know, just to recap, wearable device, It became UCU almost like all of us have a verbal devices and they’re getting way better. Like, you know, continuous glucose monitoring is pretty awesome.
In many cases, secondly, the blood testing lab testing went from the lab to the home. Huge sift. I mean, 11 times growth in the market. And now we have millions of people. Almost half us probably have done a go with this at home. We’re like, wow, that’s pretty easy. I don’t need to go to doctor’s office.
And then lastly, most importantly, more than 50% of us, population today have tried food delivery, being meal delivery or grocery delivery. That was like 25% before COVID and now we have a market where we all fell in love with that. The convenience of being at home, clicking a button stuff coming to your way.
Is it profitable? No. Is it sustainable? Maybe not, but I mean, it won’t be taken away because we are addicted to it now as population, but those pre. Components are making things like Elo possible. It, it was not, possible a decade ago. So 10 years ago, I was hoping to build this company already. I had the same pieces plan.
It looked different, not as Pret as today. And, but we, we salt it because it felt almost impossible to build. Then there was nothing available. The platform was not there. And we built that with my co-founder another company in doctor finding instead called better doctor. And I’ve been looking at this space now for 23 years.
So my, my wife had a thyroid tumor 23 years ago. It was a really young, healthy athlete. You know, we had fall in lab and overnight, you know, it’s like, oh my, I have a big tumor on my. We have to take that out. Half the thyroid goes away with it. The other one doesn’t function perfectly. And we end up in autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, these unknown unknowns.
We don’t know about as a medical community. And suddenly, you know, as, as a kid, we have to kind of figure out what to do because with this condition you can never get. So we had to basically find a way, and we talked to many, many, many doctors. We tried Western and Eastern medicine. And in the end we discovered that nutrition was a way to heal her.
And it took us about a decade. So today we have two beautiful children that are proving the point that food is medicine, at least for me and, and my wife. And we’ve been in a no mainly no meat, no wheat, no grain type of diet, no bad oils for 20 years. And when I go to my school reunion, I mean, I’m the guy who looks the same as I did 10 years ago.
And the other guys have no hair and they are talking about the diabetes. So it’s kind of proving the point that food is a really key driver in this equation of health. And I think we, we can all see it, but we just don’t know how to do it. It’s difficult. We don’t have toolbox today to do it right.
Yeah, all those, the acceleration of all of the trends that you spoke about and the. As you framed it, like wasn’t even possible, even if you had the idea, right. to do those things. And now with it becoming so ubiquitous, it’s, you know, we’re getting closer. so as we maybe get towards the end of the conversation and look ahead a little bit further, as you think about, and it might be too early, maybe even to speculate about some of these things, but I was just curious.
You know, obviously one that jumps to mind is the food delivery aspect, right? So if you’re getting all these things and you can help people meal plan, do you just deliver them the food that they need based on the readings, and with the sleep aspects And with, if you talk about physical fitness or whatever comes on the road, do you think about this as we want to build the all encompassing platform?
Or is this more of let’s integrate the pieces from the things that work. And create this kind of ecosystem that is more, call it integrated versus like siloed
It’s a big question and, and you don’t, you never know how the things will play in the end. There could be, you know, a few companies that are getting to the escape vElocity, and they become massive winners. But it’s more likely than not that there will be different vertical players. Like we see now in healthcare and, and this’ll help.
And also in wellness that you have this very narrow, vertical players that go very deep. and then in the end, I think we need to integrate them into more holistic platforms. And many of them will be bought by, by bigger companies, but in, in this place I think, and this day to day, and I’m taking more like a, like a nutrition viewpoint into this.
That’s my hat. I’m carrying today. People are getting sicker. we are spending more and more of a CDB into health because of the bad diet and livestock conditions. So I’m almost certain that, you know, in the next decade we will see significant subsidies coming from employers, the payers, the insurance companies, and the government, to take and give people the right nutrition.
And like you said, deliver that food and the, the daily box of produce or whatever they will be to people in need. And that will be dual of things, you know, getting them healthier and also helping people who are in food desert today, who can’t even buy good food, even if they won’t, they can’t, and they might not have the, the money to do it either. And, and I think the second thing that will happen. Is that we will likely start talking about in the next five years about, can we, re subsidize or refocus our subsidies of food production? We now subsidize corn, You, know, many things that are just not good for you. And, We could also, I, I don’t think this will happen soon, but I think I hope it’ll happen, but we will look at the, the regulatory aspect and maybe tax certain things in Europe.
You, you, everything is taxed. Sugar is taxed. You know, the bad stuff is taxed already And it’s happening more and more in countries today. I think that could happen here. And lastly, most unlikely we might say labeling happen. Doco was labeled, you know, 15, 20 years ago. I think we will see some type of labeling happening in Europe.
It’s already happening ins and Mexico where the processed food has a label telling you that this will kill you. And that labeling has had a big impact on, on people. And I think, I think those are the things that I, I hope will take place. but it’s very hard to see because you know, our political system is so broken today as it’s the healthcare system, that there is no easy fix, like moving one dial, you have to move hundred dials and it’s very complicated.
Yeah. I’m so glad that you, you hit on a lot of those, governmental regulatory, like who’s paying for this right now, instead of everything being this direct to consumer out of pocket premium, like. How do we address food deserts? How do we get this subsidized by healthcare? How do we get this subsidized by the government?
Like it it’s so many things that again, if you go back to the, the framing that I talked about of this, this almost like contradiction in the two ends of the spectrum. So often companies at the, maybe the forefront of innovation are. Pushing the, the edge of what’s possible, but like so much of the, the practicality, the common sense, like, Hey, how do we impact the change at the other end of the spectrum?
Isn’t part of that conversation. So I think marrying those things is very important and I’ve been encouraged by a lot of folks that are, you know, sitting in your seat, the founder kind of chief executive role, talking about that and thinking about like, Hey, how do we. Change the food that’s on the shelves at the, at the supermarket, because it doesn’t matter what we’re able to deliver from like the glucose score in the app.
If like people can’t go to the store and buy the food, that’s gonna get them to be healthier. So I think it’s like hand in hand almost. yeah. And it’s like sometimes that that part feels harder than, than solving the technology problems.
Wrapping up the conversation, and we’ll get you outta here on this, for folks that have been listening and are thinking, “Hey, I want to try this,” and maybe experience it firsthand, what’s the best way to start, and what would that experience look like for them? Where would you point them?
Thank you for the opportunity.
You can go today to elo.health. Elo.health is the website, and you can sign up to Elo there. We are now scaling, from the early hundreds last year, to thousands of people. So we are still pretty early. We are offering, probably a pretty unbeatable price, $99 a month for the whole service of testing every 90 days, having a dietitian and nutritionist helping you day by day, and then getting supplements delivered to you.
That whole package is, today, for a price of $99 bucks a month. The only place we are not available yet, but will be soon, is New York state. The plot testing requirements are complicated, and we hope to get it finally in Q3, 2022.
Fantastic. Yeah, I definitely would encourage folks to check that out. We’ll be keeping up with everything you have going on, and thanks so much for joining us today.
Thank you so much.