Food is being prescribed as medicine.
Dr. Molly Maloof’s goal is to maximize human potential by dramatically extending human healthspan. Since 2012, she has worked as an independent advisor and strategy consultant to over 20 companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in industries including biotechnology, digital health, dietary supplements, and food technology. She is particularly interested in the intersection between data-driven wellness and personal health technologies, as well as personalized nutrition.
Below, she sounds off on the Innovation Group’s predictions for 2018 in the healthcare space, as well as what she sees on the horizon.
Across the past year, we talked about the idea of prescription nutrition—the idea of nutrition as a form of health care and a form of medicine gaining traction. Do you see that hitting the consciousness of your patients—really starting to scrutinize diet and have a more nuanced understanding of it?
Oh, my gosh, yeah. I have a pretty standard protocol for anybody who has autoimmunity. These are very drastic life changes. You are basically eliminating everything that’s wrong with the food system from your diet, which means you’re eliminating processed packaged food, many grains, and adding in 8-10 servings of produce a day.
What I’m hoping to see is companies like Euphebe come along that make whole natural food available to people so that it’s delicious and people want to eat it, but they’re also inspired to eat it because they know they need to, because of their body. Food being prescribed as medicine, its first time through is just recommendation, but then solutions are going to be the big winner. Amazon, I think, is going to be a big part of that.
The fast-casual veggie-oriented places popping up all over San Francisco are only going to continue, where there’s basically semi-prepared food that you customize when you’re there. Whether it’s grain bowls or a salad, the opportunity to buy close-to-premade food in a fast-casual environment, that’s really taken off. People still want to have food prepared, and millennials are eating out for most of their meals, but they’re conscious, too. They’re going to these places that are convenient but also healthy. A great example of this is Meal Made, which serves phenomenally healthy paleo fare.
There seems to be a triangle emerging between self-improvement, wellbeing, and experience culture. From traveling to festivals to optimizing yourself or your job, to networking.
Maybe even a diamond, because there’s also the component of work being such a part of your life. People try to make their lives and their work and their play all within the same world, instead of being separated. People are looking for communities that can enhance their jobs, and interact with people that are more successful than them, and enable these relationships to grow.
With Chosen Experiences, they’re actually building a venture firm so they’ll be bringing in companies and investors to go on trips. When you get invested in, you’re kind of dating that person who’s paying the bill. A lot of this is about designing your life so that everything is seamless, and everything fits together, and you feel like you can do more because of the community of people that you have around you, rather than just having to be by yourself in this journey.
There are a few other examples of this that I can think of. One is Habitas, which marries a social club and co-working in cities like New York and LA and then luxurious, wellness-focused travel experiences in Tulum. Then there is the Assembly in the Mission in San Francisco, which is a new female social club (only women can be members but men can attend in the company of a member) that is marrying co-working with community, fitness and wellness.
We’re looking at Deepak Chopra’s Muse Residences apartments in Florida, which seem to be taking a much more nuanced approach to creating environmental wellness—circadian rhythms and purified water, air purifiers.
I’m a big fan of that, too. You see that in the hotel realm as well. A lot of hotel rooms are now green ecofriendly, or wellness friendly or allergy friendly. They’ll have all sorts of additions to make the room extra clean and extra pure. It makes sense in polluted cities, but whether or not it makes sense in a pristine environment is another story.
We’re also discussing Silicon Valley’s move into health—not least Amazon and its move into pharmaceuticals.
Grail is a great example of it. They’re a cancer research company but it’s run by an ex Google executive. And Color—it’s a health service that helps you understand your genetic risk for common hereditary cancers and hereditary high cholesterol. And frankly, Facebook groups are where a lot of individuals are finding communities of people with their own condition or health goals, as well as, caregivers and providers are promoting community engagement with the healing process.
Really, what I see Amazon doing is building an incredible technology infrastructure for things that the healthcare industry really needs, like data storage. Eventually they’re going figure out a way to de-identify it and mine it for answers and information. There’s also a lot of privacy legislation that needs to change to make data accessible by big organizations, but I wouldn’t be surprised that that’s part of their future foresight of where they want to go.
The language of health products is changing generally towards something much more consumer-centric. Like a personal care brand that you might buy, or a boutique hotel where you might stay. Why should health products and health environments feel like clinics?
Exactly. Look at Forward—it’s more like an Apple store. It doesn’t really feel like a doctor’s office, it feels like a futuristic environment that has all these interesting scanners. When you’re interacting with the data around your body, it’s on screens that make you feel like you’re in a business meeting discussing your health, rather than an actual healthcare experience. They’re really changing the quality of the experience.
Is there anything else on the fringes that you’re quite excited about?
I wouldn’t necessarily call this fringe, but continuous glucose monitoring for healthy people is fringe medicine, and it’s what I’m doing in my practice. The correct term for it is Biofeedback Enhanced Lifestyle Intervention. To me, glucose is the ultimate lifestyle biomarker because it changes depending on exercise, sleep, food, and stress level. It’s fascinating to watch and to use it on a day-to-day basis, and to actually reflect on the information.
I’m so excited for other wearable continuous biometric monitoring. This other company called Lief Therapeutics has a heart rate variability monitor and it’s a stress monitor that will tell me in real time how stressed out I am. Am I recovered from exercise? Am I actually relaxing when I’m meditating, or am I worrying? And it gives you real-time haptic feedback, which is one thing that has never been available before.
So it’s being driven by innovation, but also by consumers looking for alternatives to really understand their personal health, beyond just how many steps you take per day.
There’s two companies that are doing menstrual blood lab testing. Feedback on your health over time using your period—when I found that out, my mind was blown. Women know that they’re solving problems that are real, because they have them, and because women spend more money on health and wellness than anyone else. It’s totally logical that women entrepreneurs are saying, “What have we been missing here? How come we haven’t been actually solving the problems that we understand?”
Again, it wraps in how the decreasing cost of technology and artificial intelligence is making all of this more accessible.
Oh, yeah. Computers can do my job faster than I can. Please let the computer do it, and let me be that person walking someone through the answers. At the end of the day, I don’t think that patients are going to not need doctors, but right now it takes me hours to do what a computer can do in seconds. I think it’s going to dramatically improve my job.