It Takes a Village Interview: Ari Tulla of Elo Health
By Kevin Pereau
Ari Tulla is the co-founder and CEO of Elo Health, a startup that uses AI, blood test results, and expert guidance to provide nutrition recommendations precisely calibrated to your unique needs. What is Elo Health? The company mission both teases and explains the company vision:
“Our vision is to transform food from the cause of disease to medicine”
Elo has built a ground-breaking platform that analyzes over 3,000 peer-reviewed studies, personal biomarker results, questionnaire information, and data from wearables, to take the guesswork out of food and supplement decisions.
Their first product is a supplement offering; however, they plan to expand to food in the near future. The team at Elo knows that supplements are complementary to food, rather than a standalone strategy for optimizing nutrition (and ultimately, health).
How Elo Works
Members start with a quick, at-home blood test they perform on themselves. Elo AI ingests these results, as well as questionnaire and wearable data, to build a precise micronutrient plan for each individual’s needs and goals.
After this, members meet with an Elo Health Coach to review their recommendations and tweak their plan, as needed. This session gives Elo members the opportunity to ask questions and make sense of their plan.
Then, Elo sends a monthly supply of personalized supplements, separated into daily packets, straight to your door. Blood work is repeated periodically to ensure continued optimization.
“Health is dynamic, and your supplement regime should be too,” according to Elo . . . “We call this nutrition with precision.”
And your Elo Health Coach doesn’t just disappear after the first session. They’re with you every step of the way, relentlessly optimizing your plan and supporting your health journey.
Let’s Talk with Ari
Are we at a point where we should think of food as simply fuel, or is it really medicine for the mind and body? Ari brings it all into focus and provides a historical perspective.
“Over the last 50 years,” he observes, “we have seen obesity go from nonexistent to prevalent. About 40 percent of adults in the U.S. today are obese and it’s costing trillions of dollars every year. But it’s not just about the money – obesity is reducing our healthspan, life expectancy, and potential. We can’t do great things when we’re sick.
“Over the years, we’ve fallen in and out of love with so many food fads, which have contributed to our weight problem. In the early days, Hungry Man – a TV dinner with 5,000 calories – became big, along with Coke and other sugar bombs. Then in the 1970s and 80s, we condemned fat and removed it from everything. In parallel, we started adding sugar and high fructose corn syrup to food. Then by the late 2000s, we had this coffee movement where coffee changed from a healthy black liquid into the equivalent of a sugary soda. That added yet another layer.”
The Obesity Trend
Ari points out that those trends, along with a reliance on ultra-processed foods, are still exacerbating the obesity epidemic today. Seventy-five percent of adults are overweight. Both Ari and I honestly believe that the food industry is poised to become the next tobacco industry in terms of how much harm their products are doing to people.
Governments worldwide are going to set their sights on the ultra-processed food manufacturers and say to them, “You knew that the product was addictive and bad for us. You knew that adding sugar to absolutely everything would lead to obesity and chronic, diet-related illnesses like type 2 diabetes.”
This political dialogue will force the food industry to clean up their act, reduce sugar and think harder about their influence on population health. The cherry on top of all of this is that people are wildly confused about what’s good for them, and what’s bad.
“Nutrition misinformation is rife” Ari says, “and the food industry is doing its best to muddy the waters with pseudoscience. It’s difficult for consumers to differentiate between snake oil and science. People are trying to get healthier and testing out new (old) eating approaches like paleo and intermittent fasting – so the interest is there – but few people know where to turn for the right advice.
“We founded Elo to provide consumers with honest, science-based answers to their nutrition questions and make nutrition science easier to understand and implement. We fundamentally believe that food can be turned from the cause of disease to medicine.”
Where Elo Fits
Elo and its care team have been narrowing down and focusing on men age 40+, who are most likely to develop conditions like type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Interestingly, that group was the first generation to dive headfirst into processed foods. Both Ari and I are part of this cohort. As kids, we ate hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza, and later, many foods laced with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Ari and his team have concluded that the goal is not to build a food product or supplement. It’s about building a platform that provides the right nutrition recommendations for consumers’ unique needs, underpinned by science.
And then there is the longer view.
“When we think about this,” Ari says, “what we are really selling is confidence about the next 30 years. I want to build a system that can help Elo members age with confidence and achieve their goals.
“Thirty years from now, I’m going to be 72. I plan to be able to do many of the things I love doing today: hiking, skiing, and taking long bike rides. I might not be as fast in 30 years’ time, but if I can do those things with my kids and expand my lifespan and healthspan (years without disease), I will be happy. And that’s what Elo is all about – helping you perform at your best at every age.
“One of the trickiest parts of the problem we’re solving, is that there’s no “one size fits all approach” to nutrition. We know that eating a lot of plants is good for us but beyond that, what works for you and what works for me can be very different. Food is personal. It’s influenced by our cultural heritage, genetic make-up, taste preferences, activity levels, biochemistry, and many other factors.
“At Elo, we start by understanding you and your body. We spend most of our time analyzing your longitudinal health record, biomarker information, activity, sleep data, and weight history. From there, we translate that data into actionable nutrition recommendations, precisely tailored to your unique needs.”
Elo has a unique way of doing things. Part of the mission and philosophy is to recognize that the “human touch” is important and that there are some things that cannot be replicated by an algorithm. That’s why every Elo member gets assigned an Elo Health Coach to explain their recommendations, to tweak their personal, plan and support their health journey. Nutrition choices are influenced by so many factors and as Ali puts it, “We all need support to develop new habits.”
Ari’s Personal Story
Ari says, “Everyone has their own time clock and their own sense of priorities. Everyone also has what I call Memento Mori. Memento Mori is basically that moment your internal clock reminds you that `You are mortal, you are mortal, you are mortal! Don’t forget it!’ Maybe this moment happens when you go to a friend’s funeral for the first time, or a family member gets sick. Or perhaps you have your own health scare. Memento Mori is the moment when you realize that life is finite and want to take action to preserve it. For many men, it happens in their forties and fifties and that’s exactly who we’re helping at Elo.
“My Memento Mori moment took place in the summer of 2000. I was in London with my wife, Anu. We were having a great holiday and exploring the British Museum exhibit about ancient Egyptian art.
“Anu pressed a button on the neck of the sarcophagus and listened to a story about the common causes of death 2000 years ago. At that time, people only lived to 39 years old and often died of thyroid tumors. As Anu listened to the story she felt her neck. Suddenly she turned at me and said, “could you listen to this and touch my neck?”. I touched her neck and felt a bump similar to that described in the audio. We got back home, and a couple of weeks later, Anu was in the operating room having a large tumor removed from her neck. At the time, Anu was 22 years old, healthy, athletic, young woman and we had no idea that this incident would lead to tremendous changes for us both.
“Luckily, the tumor ended up being benign, however, Anu’s surgery removed part of her other thyroid, which led to autoimmune diseases and hormonal imbalances. Little by little we got Anu’s health in check by optimizing diet, sleep, mindfulness, and exercise. We both adopted a no-wheat, no-sugar, little-meat diet that we still follow today.
“These lifestyle interventions, together with modern reproductive science, helped us get pregnant, and our two wonderful kids are proof that food is medicine.”
About Ari Tulla
Ari Tulla is co-founder of Elo Health (www.elo.health), a precision nutrition company with a mission to turn food from a cause of disease to medicine. Before Elo, Ari was the CEO of Quest Analytics, a doctor data management and network analytics company. Before Quest Analytics, Ari was the co-founder and CEO of BetterDoctor, a comprehensive doctor data engine that powers the healthcare market with accurate doctor data.
But Ari took an unusual route to becoming a leader in healthcare. Before moving to the healthcare world, he led Nokia’s game and application studios, where he was responsible for creating thousands of mobile apps with over 100M downloads. Ari has two decades of experience in developing new delightful products and experiences. Ari is an entrepreneur, CEO, board member, dad, and rock climber — solving problems that help people live better lives.
You can read the full interview with Ari in Kevin’s book, It Takes a Village – Click here to get it on Amazon.