For the past two decades, T.A. Sciences® is dedicated exclusively to creating research-based, clinically tested wellness products that help address telomere shortening through the science of Telomerase Activation.
Reversing biological age by just one year can save $38 trillion of public health funding. Read that again. $38 TRILLION. And by now, you probably know that in my new Younger You book, I explain exactly how to reverse your biological age by over three years through nutrition and lifestyle. But writing a book is not enough, and I’m really excited to bring an easy-to-follow digital program accessible from anywhere in the world. And I couldn’t have done it without Suggestic, the innovative health tech company powering the 3YY digital program. In this episode of New Frontiers, I share the ins and outs of this turnkey digital program with the potential to revolutionize personalized nutrition delivery and optimize health at scale.
Join me for an intimate chat with my good friends and colleagues from Suggestic, Victor Chapela and Erica Sanders, and discover how we translate my multi-modal clinical trial intervention into a digital program everyone can access by combining lab testing, supplementation and one-to-one nutritionist support. As always, I’m grateful to all of you for joining in the passion and excitement around my research and work – I so appreciate your support; it has touched my soul. Thank you for listening, and please leave a comment and review wherever you hear my voice! – DrKF
The Story Behind Younger You 3YY: from Clinical Trial to Accessible Digital Program with Victor Chapela and Erica Sanders
Can technology make functional medicine more affordable and improve health on a population level? In this episode of New Frontiers, Dr. Fitzgerald chats to Victor Chapela, CEO, and Erica Sanders, Head of Content & Community Success, of Suggestic, a leading digital health platform with the mission of making food-based health accessible to all through innovative technology. Together they take us through the journey of creating the 3YY digital program, inspired by the Younger You book and Dr. Fitzgerald’s seminal paper on bio age reversal. Victor and Erica reveal the secrets behind harnessing the power of digital tech to scale health programs, add value for users, and create communities. They truly are the experts in delivering personalized nutrition programs at scale by bringing together thousands of different developers to create all types of dietary programs that combine lab tests, devices, wearables, supplements, and nutrition coaching in a unified client journey through an app or portal.
In this episode of New Frontiers, learn about:
- Developing the 3YY digital program
- Using digital platforms to deliver food-based health
- Creating a viable, scalable business
- Adding value for participants
- The power of partnership & community
- Program accessibility and affordability
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Hi, everybody. Welcome to New Frontiers in Functional Medicine, where we are interviewing the best minds in functional medicine. Of course, today is no exception. I am here with my good friends and colleagues, Victor Chapela and Erica Sanders, and we’re going to be talking to you all about the digital platform that we have created in support of the Younger You book. So, first of all, I want to just thank you, the listening audience, and a lot of you are clinicians and you’ve introduced the book to your patients and family. I just want to, from the bottom of my heart, express my deepest gratitude for your support in this work and really not even just the book, but of course, the study and the interest and the passion and the excitement has just fed my soul in the deepest way. Actually, just when we had early on in the journey, our study findings were established. We were starting to submit to different journals. But really, before we even published the first paper, Tom Blue, who’s sort of like the… Who is that guy, Kevin, the actor who knows everyone? Sorry, it’s loose end. Ignore this.
Erica Sanders: Bacon.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Kevin Bacon. Okay. So, the guy knows everyone, Tom Blue is that guy in functional medicine. He knows people. He connects us and he knows who we need to know. I was chatting with Tom and he said, “You absolutely have to connect with Victor Chapela. He has a app company out in Silicon Valley. He’s doing this amazing work and you guys need to talk.” And so, Victor and I talked. This is really going back years now. We were just fast and immediate friends and Victor was excited, as have most people been, on our study findings. One of the things that we did in our study to have people be able to adhere to a relatively involved diet and lifestyle program, so a multi-modal intervention, was we had our nutrition team supporting the participants and we had a clinical research center, the Helfgott Research Institute supporting. There were a lot of different ducks in a row to make sure that the study came off without a hitch or minimal hitches. And so, how do we bring that to you?
First step, of course, publishing the paper. Second step, obviously thrilled that Hachette offered me a book deal to write it all down and you have that. But the third important step, actually there’s two prongs and one is building it out in a digital turnkey structure so that everyone can do this program really anywhere in the world and we’re holding the branch down so that it’s doable. That was important and that was Victor’s vision, and it was infectious. The other piece I want to say is that… Actually, there’s two other pieces, and then I want to hush and let these guys talk, is that we were able to get IRB approval and we’ll continue to research our findings and we’ll be able to tweak them. Our audience will be larger and broader and different ages. Perhaps they’ll come to us with different supplement protocols and health status, et cetera, et cetera. So we’re going to continue to research this.
And then the final thing, because, again, most of you are clinicians is that we’re going to be able to offer to you tools that you can use with your patients within the digital program. With that lengthy introduction, I just want to open the floor to Victor and say welcome. Tell me a little bit about your vision and why you were jazzed up to jump on this journey with me.
Victor Chapela: Sure. Thank you, Kara. So, the reality is that once we learned about Kara’s findings like… First, when we met, we geeked out deeply into all the different things, It was just a pleasure to speak about what was going on, what was happening in this field. We had always thought of longevity, and me personally, longevity and biological age as a cornerstone in future developments, mainly because it allows for a complete new industry to arise, which is departing from the sickness-centric healthcare system and moving into optimizing health. Optimizing health in the long term, it could have an fundamental impact in everything we do, not only in our health, but also in our happiness and the way we relate to our own bodies.
I think that that was something that was always a passion of mine, learning and searching and understanding that how we could improve our relationship to nutrition, our relationship to lifestyle to actually change our epigenetics and be able to live a healthier and longer life. So that was part of our core when we started our company. That was our goal. That was our mission. And so, finding something that was actually aligned so perfectly with our mission was super exciting. And then the main thing was by learning about what Kara had done, we realized that this all was still very tightly kept in a more of a clinical setting. So, how could we scale this to bring it to as many people as possible? So, once we learned about it, we decided to partner. The main idea is how can we create a journey where people can be handheld through the process, where we can scale this to, as we have now done to thousands of people that will be going through the process and how could we do it in a way that actually made sense and that was affordable, et cetera.
So, we started with our platform, which already had a lot of these pieces, everything from the interaction through the coaches and the practitioners, with the end user, along with connecting the labs and the supplements and the experience itself into a unified app. So, all this was set out. The first thing we wanted to learn really is how were people going to receive this and what was the interest behind it? So, some of you may have seen that we created a wait list way back, like a year ago, and that wait list… And we also created a survey. So, this, we created a landing page for the wait list to survey for people. We had a huge amount of respondents, over 500 respondents in the first couple weeks, and we got a lot around 2,000, I think, people signing up to the wait list even before… This is before we even had any media.
It was amazing to see not only the enthusiasm around Kara and her ideas, which I would also add myself into that fan club, not only around Kara, but also around the concepts and ideas themselves that were brought forward. And so, with that, we started realizing what it was that people wanted, what it was that we could offer the world. We realized that if we wanted to make this happen, the partnership needed someone to lead it through the product development phase, which is taking that information that we knew from the first respondents of the survey, like this is what we are most… I would even argue the three things that people said they wanted the most were, “We want access to the supplements. We want access to the biological age test. We want access to a nutritionist that can guide us through the process.”
Those three things were what we incorporated into this delivery of the program itself, and that has been cornerstone of everything we’ve built on top is how do we deliver all this value to people at the best price possible? And that’s where Erica Sanders came in. She has extensive experience in the publishing world. She’s been editor and executive editor in all these health type of publications. She helped us in the process of bringing all of this thing together. So, Erica, why don’t you tell us a bit about the process of once you took over the project, how you started understanding these different pieces?
Erica Sanders: Sure. Yeah. Thank you, Victor.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I want to just ask you before you jump into the nuts and bolts of manifesting this program for us, really walking us through, can you just zoom out for a minute and talk about Suggestic as a company?
Victor Chapela: Sure.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I mean, you’re just well regarded, you’re based in Silicon Valley, but beyond doing extraordinary work in making nutrition and nutrition-based programs accessible to a wide variety. I’m not your first rodeo.
Victor Chapela: Exactly.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: This project is not your first rodeo.
Victor Chapela: Suggestic is a very interesting story. I’ve been an entrepreneur in my life. So, after my last couple companies got acquired, I wanted to give back in something that is very important to me, which is nutrition. We started Suggestic over seven years ago with the idea of creating a platform, a technology platform where we could actually deploy and deliver food-based health. Food-based health, as we know, has become the underlying factor. It’s a granular way to actually improve health. And so, what we started doing with Suggestic was we first went into diabetes itself, then we went direct to consumer. Eventually, a couple years ago, we realized that the best way to scale and actually achieve our mission was not trying to create the content ourself, but actually partnering up with… Right now, we have thousands of different developers on our platform who are creating all types of dietary interventions, that, again, they combine lab tests, devices, wearables with the coaching, with their own coaching and with their own supplements and their own food delivery.
All these things combine in a way in which the end user has a unified journey through an app, through a portal. All this technology, what it does is it allows domain experts, such as Kara and many other of our customers, it allows each of them to create these wonderful programs that are changing lives for people, everything from autism to diabetes, to this case, biological age reversal, to things such as weight loss, so all the spectrum in every single type of variation, you can imagine, from plant-based to keto to Mediterranean. So, there’s a lot of things going on and happening, and we are super privileged to be kind of like a catalyst, so to speak, or a fundamental… Let’s think of it as the operating system on top of which all of these great programs exist.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: That’s pretty cool. It is cool. I’m excited to listen to it, Erica, walking our program into being, and the fact that we’re the first partnership structure that you have. So, I’m excited about that little factoid as well. All right. Erica, talk to us about what you did and are doing.
Erica Sanders: Right. Yeah. Thanks guys. First of all, I also have a really personal connection to the whole longevity space and concept just in terms of my own background, but my mother was one of the first to adopt an organic lifestyle back in the ’70s and also considered whole foods and low stress and all types of exercises, a core part of what she wanted to impart to her six children. So, my father being a medical doctor on the other side of the coin really gave me quite a perspective on how the whole healthcare system, as well as how we study our own behaviors and the foods that we eat impact our long-term health. So, watching them age has been quite interesting as well, but this is something that I have a great personal interest in too. But seeing how this project has come together and having had the opportunity to speak to so many people, just randomly interviewing people who are on the wait list, I would reach out by email.
People would say, “Sure. Give me a call. I’d love to be a part of this.” We would talk sometimes for half an hour, and this is where we began to really kick the tires on what sort of offering we would be able to put together, not only in terms of what made sense, as Victor said, from a business point of view, but also really listening to what people want and desire and need. One of the things that people really wanted was information about themselves. They really wanted that lab test. That data is so important. This is a big draw to why they come to anything basically that, Dr. Fitzgerald, you’re posting and writing about. The book that you’ve done is such a gift to everybody because they really want to know the ins and outs. They love the data. They love the information. And that’s what I heard firsthand.
I heard they want to know that. They want to be able to measure their own progress. Many of the people I interviewed already understand the impact of nutrition and de-stressing and lifestyle interventions, this multi-modal intervention that you described earlier, and really just wanted to be able to impart that either to their own patients or to be able to live that life to the fullest. So, I found an incredibly passionate group when I interviewed people. Also, we very fortunately, after your paper was published in Aging in April, was picked up by major media outlets. And so, people who didn’t know about you before were suddenly signing up on the wait list. As Victor said, we had over 2,000 people. There was huge interest.
So very quickly, this group became two very distinct groups. It became people who know you, who are super passionate. They understand. I would call them literate in longevity. And then there are the people who are like, “Wow, I can live the last 15, 16 years of my life better than my parents are? I can feel good all the way every day all day.” And so, those people were those who I was talking to, who wanted to know more about why and what, and the types of foods. And so, when I spoke to people about, “Well, how would you like to follow this program? Here’s what we’re thinking about.” Many people didn’t need so much handholding, but they really wanted to know what it was that they had to do every day and wanted to be supported in doing it every day. Other people needed recipes. They needed meal-plans. They needed some sort of help in terms of like, “Well, how do I actually get seven cups of vegetables a day?”
And so, those kind of questions were coming to me on the ground level. So, I had a lot of information to collate and bring together and interviewing people. I really understood the connection of working one on one with people and getting this information to pull together what we were initially calling our beta phase. Now, we went out to a large group of people and said, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. This is our beta program.” It was confusing because we ended up offering an amazing package. We offered two epigenetic tests, which on their own would cost close to $1,000. We offered eight weeks’ worth of supplements, probiotics included. We offered six sessions with nutritionist who were personally trained by the clinic. All of these aspects brought together, plus an app that it gave you digital support every day, allowed you to track what you were doing, had video content and articles and extra information about… down to, “How about look at your storage? For all the vegetables you’re going to be eating, you’re going to need new storage containers. Here, try these.”
So, it was really like a 360 degree in terms of the service and in terms of what people were getting to make sure that they made it through this intensive program. As you said, it was not a simple program. It’s one that if you don’t know anything about it, you’re going to need a lot of help. So, it was really interesting to pull together those relationships. We reached out to different testing corporations. Kara, you and Victor can speak a little bit to how we discovered, how we ended up with TruDiagnostics and how we ended up with Metagenics, but these were relationships that everybody coming together. I think that’s the common theme here, that we have some really great minds at work who are looking at the various available resources and connections.
You talk about Tom Blue being the Kevin Bacon of the functional medicine world. Everybody here is on some level working every single connection, and that’s what’s so great. In interviewing people, I’ve run into people from my past lives in media. And so, it’s very interesting to see where all of these interconnections are and to also be able to ultimately come up with a package that people are so excited about. I could go on and on. I’m not sure if you want me to get into every single aspect or you want me to stop and answer a question or…
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I want to just underscore how cool the project was and continues to be to have the best and the brightest. I mean, finding you guy, I’m not in IT or app development at all. I mean, it was such a new world, but it’s just a pleasure across the board working with experts within their field. I mean, it’s just the possibility of what we can manifest is extraordinary. One of the things that struck me when we published our study, of course, it’s in a peer reviewed journal, and so we were given feedback from our peer reviewers, comments on what we need to think about and add and change, whatever, just lots of stuff from other experts in the field, but one person just was so excited about it. They said that this is… Well, two things, that it’s broadly doable. This program is broadly doable, but we need you. We need Erica and Victor and Suggestic to make this broadly doable.
But the other piece is that last year, Sinclair and a few of his colleagues published another investigation on the economics of reversing biological age. I mean, we need something like this that’s broadly doable, that is impactful, that can reverse biological age because all of these developed Western nations, and certainly the less developed countries are heading towards bankruptcy, like urgently heading towards bankruptcy regarding healthcare because of all of the onslaught of chronic diseases. It is clear that aging is the number one risk factor for all of these. If we can reverse biological age by even a year and we showed in our study over three years, but even by a year, we stand to save trillions.
If we can turn that up a little bit further, put a few zeros on the back of that, I mean, that the savings for this venture broadly are enormous. Of course, the savings and, I don’t know, just the quality of life, the intimate benefits of this in each individual is extraordinary. I guess this brings me to my next question for Victor and Erica, or maybe, Victor, you can start, but we need to make it affordable. The original beta wasn’t cheap, and yet it was much cheaper than what it would’ve cost had we charged full, but we were in our testing phase, et cetera, et cetera. So we’ve had to think about how do we pull the branch down as it were in terms of pricing.
Victor Chapela: Yeah. So, totally, that was a very early consideration, which was we want this to be broadly available, and that is the key to how we can make this work. Evidently, we started with some labs and supplements are not the cheapest, but were the most comprehensive and the ones that had… So, the first idea and goal was how do we mimic the original study so that we can continue to publish on top of that and learn more things around what we already had done. The second objective was how do we make a less expensive version that can be a broader audience that don’t care about the clinical study and don’t care as much about the specificity of the labs, for instance, but I want to know an idea, have an idea of their biological agency, their progression, and progress through a time.
And so, what we’ve done is think of this as we are not going to make money out in the short term. What we’ve done is actually just give things almost at cost for this first months and for the first programs, et cetera, because what we really want to do is set up a foundation of, if people start… We all know that once we start feeling better, we just continue to do those things. There’s two ways in which the business has to be financially viable, and so they can grow and it can bring in more talent and continue to deliver more value, but it doesn’t have to be upfront, highly, highly profitable, or even profitable. So, what we are thinking of this is if we match the incentives… The incentive here is long term. When we go into biological age, we want to live healthier, longer. To do so, the first step is this two month intervention. As you know, we have the monthly subscription. And so, it really starts making money after several months.
So, it’s not about just how can we sell a large priced ticket item up front. It’s more about how can we continue to add a value throughout the journey and how can we stack things as we go so that you can get more biological age reversal through different strategies and have this subscription be valuable to each individual. From the start, our whole mindset was how could we bring these different pieces together so that one, we can continue to do the research, as Kara was saying, and second, improve the effectiveness of what we are doing so that we add more value, we add more things. I think that’s something we should certainly touch upon because there’s so many offerings that we will be adding and staggering on top, and some of which will be coming out very soon to both measure and improve on different aspects of the biological age reversal process.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: It’s very, very, very exciting. So, we’ve got this entry. So, anyone who joins with us, we’re going to strongly encourage you to do the eight-week study protocol, just follow that and get that as your baseline. And then blessed out into the Younger You universe with us and see all of the other interventions. Science is moving forward in this arena at a breakneck pace and one of the, I think, cool and exciting pieces that I like to do, and I know that Victor and Erica are on board with this is continue to vet interventions. You can see in the book that I’m not limiting my discussion on labs or supplements to just those that we used in the study. I go well beyond to talk about other supplement considerations and lab considerations.
From our study where the clock available at that time was the 2013 Horvath flagship DNA methylation age biological clock. There are more clocks that we want to look at, clocks that will tell you brain health or brain age, and immune age and mitochondrial fitness, and just on and on. And so, all of these tools we want to bring to you and continue to build out in the stacked program. It’s just ridiculously exciting for me as somebody who’s interested in longevity, as a scientist, as a clinician, as just a human being, walking with family and wanting to live the best life. So, many possibilities continue to abound, and it’ll be living, and we’ll be able to see what works having IRB approval, sort of a broad IRB approval. We’ll be able to crunch the data. For those who want to participate, you certainly don’t have to participate in the research, but we’ll be able to tease out what works and we’ll continue to publish on it.
Erica, as we come to the close, talk to me a little bit about how people can join and the structure of the program now, and just any parting thoughts that you have.
Erica Sanders: Sure. One thought I really wanted to round out a little bit is you touched on this earlier, but I think it’s super important for people who themselves are coaches or professionals to really understand that we want to build a community around you guys as well, and that for this, we will be… Again, you may be getting a call from me about this, but my point being that we really want to be able to offer some sort of Younger You university or certification or some sort of program for professionals who are interested in getting this level of coursework under their belt so that they can offer the very best version to their own clients and patients, and I think that that is something that is really exciting to me.
How can people sign up? Well, of course you can go to the joinyoungeryouprogram.com website. You can see all of the products that are available, including the book and the subscription model for the monthly subscription, the 40%… What is it? 40% off, I think, yeah, on the $2,000, so it’s only about 1,200. Then there, you can buy an annual and you can get additional testing and all the supplements you want, additional nutrition sessions. So, all sorts of wonderful things there. As you mentioned, we’re looking at different clocks and different ways of learning from the ongoing research. I wanted to just point out that one thing I think is really cool is that you looked at, in your study, primarily a male group, and we are so lucky to be able to now have data on male and female participants.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes. And a broader age range as well.
Erica Sanders: Exactly. Yeah. Well, you know this way better than I do, but I think that it would be so important to be able to take those learnings and really to further personalize the programs, and that is ultimately… Victor will speak to this, because part of the Suggestic mission is really about personalizing nutrition and personalizing these programs. One of the things I recall as you two were geeking out, I remember way back when, I mean, I think there was snow on the ground and the news was… Well, anyway, I remember talk about devices and other things to be brought in, and it was really cool. Those things are happening. So, I just want to make sure that we close the loop on the beginning. The way that this conversation has gone has been so exciting and so many great things are coming out of it, and it’s been just really cool being a part of it.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Thank you for that little snapshot, that memory. It’s true, the entering into this program and completing the study structure and using the support nutritionist and all of that is just the beginning of the journey. It is. It’s ridiculously exciting what we get to unfold. How about you, Victor? Any parting thoughts?
Victor Chapela: I think that one of the most interesting things about the food-based health and health optimization and longevity as a consequence is precisely that it’s a community effort. There’s no single company, single product, single anything that will actually make a difference. It’s by branching out and bringing everyone together, and that’s… The most beautiful thing for us has been to see how this ecosystem of different products, people and services have come together in this food-based health industry and how it’s really what we are seeing as a transformation, moving away from this pharma-centered mentality, where we are just maintaining people or treating people that are sick rather than actually how do we improve life to optimize it to its upmost level, and I think that’s what I’m super excited about that we are working on this together. Everyone listening in, we want to partner with you in one way or another. Erica was mentioning right now, we will have ways in which you will be able to offer and do the coaching yourself and offer the program and take a share of it if you are a practitioner.
We also are thinking of other ways in which we can enhance different programs and partnering with other people who have everything from microbiome to things on how to… cognitive health, et cetera, all these different pieces that are coming in together into how can we attend to and work with and optimize every single aspect of our health going forward, and doing so with this platform allows us to not only stop with… I think that what is wonderful and Kara has really been able to do is create a platform for biological age through her book, through this wonderful reaction we’ve had of people buying the book and coming into literally tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. I don’t even know how many we have right now, but it’s a huge, huge success, and having people learn about this possibility. Now that we’ve done that, how can we bring the whole ecosystem in to actually supporting that journey that most people are starting to take toward better health?
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Very exciting, exciting things in our future, exciting things now. It really is just an incredible foundation that we started on and continue to build on. I just look forward to our listeners joining us or continuing to walk with us. It is true, Victor, that community is huge. If there was one thing that I would’ve wanted in an original study is a community element. I know I brought that to the table with you guys very early on. And so, we’ve worked at including it in this model. We couldn’t do it in our randomized controlled trial, but we can within this model, and I do think it’s important.
So, join us. If you would like a little bit of an incentive to do so, you have access to a discount as listeners of New Frontiers in Functional Medicine and you can find that in the show notes page or in the email that we will send you with the link to this. Erica and Victor, always a pleasure to get to hang out with you as we do every week in our meeting. It’s nice to do it here in New Frontiers. Thank you so much.
Victor Chapela: Thank you, Kara.
Erica Sanders: Thanks, Kara.
Victor Chapela: Been a pleasure.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: As always, thank you for listening to New Frontiers in Functional Medicine, where our sponsors help bring the very best minds in functional medicine, and today is no exception. Not everyone can be a sponsor on my platform, and I so appreciate the good work, relentless research, and generous support from my friends at Biotics, TA Sciences, and Integrative Therapeutics. These are brands I know and trust in my own clinic and can confidently recommend to you. Visit them at BioticsResearch.com, TASciences.com, and IntregrativePro.com, and please, tell them you learned about them on New Frontiers.
If it’s not too much to ask, I would appreciate a thumbs up and a kind review wherever you listen to New Frontiers. Thanks.
Victor Chapela is the co-founder and CEO of Suggestic, a digital infrastructure company that helps domain experts deliver Personalized Nutrition Programs at scale. Victor has been working closely with Dr. Fitzgerald and Erica Sanders to bring to life the 3YY digital program and health journey.
Erica Sanders is the Program Manager of the 3YY digital platform, as well as the Head of Content for Suggestic. She has worked in the health and wellness space for Rodale, Time Inc. and Hearst, among other media companies, and is a graduate of Columbia University.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald FxMed Resources
Clinician Professional Development: DrKF FxMed Clinic Immersion