Fat-Melting Shots, Gut Checks & Food Apps: 4 Israeli Startups Making A Mark On The Weight Loss Industry
Most of us know that losing weight and keeping it off is no walk in the park, though walks in the park (or any open space) can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Anyone who’s taken on an exercise program understands that the links between appetite, physical activity, and weight management are often complex and dynamic.
With almost 2 billion adults and close to 400 million children and adolescents worldwide considered obese or overweight, according to World Health Organization figures from 2016, excess fat has become an international epidemic and the associated health problems have risen significantly. At the same time, the number of must-try diets (think Atkins and South Beach) promising quick results, weight loss products like shakes and pills, and rigid fitness regimes, has also skyrocketed in recent decades. By 2014, the weight loss industry in the US alone was worth over $60 billion, but an estimated 90 percent of diets end in failure as, generally, they are considered unsustainable and people abandon them quickly.
Barring expensive and sometimes life-threatening surgeries that include painful recovery, there are no real shortcuts to long-term weight loss. Even with medical intervention, like bariatric surgery, the weight can come back. Only some 50 percent of people achieve successful weight loss five years after the surgery, but many develop disturbing eating behaviors, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
In addition to healthy food choices, regular exercise and good sleeping habits – all key factors – there are a number of tools that can set people up on the right path. These four Israeli startups specializing in weight loss may just have some of the answers.
Could fat-melting become part of a new weight-loss regimen? Jerusalem-based startup Raziel Therapeutics has developed a new localized injection that literally melts fat cells. While this medical treatment does not replace the importance of a broader lifestyle change, Raziel Therapeutics says the heat-producing injection that burns fat cells is more effective if paired with healthy diet and exercise.
When injected, the drug first removes the fat cells themselves and then postpones the proliferation of new ones, according to Raziel, a pharmaceutical company founded at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company Yissum, which commercializes academic research. Raziel Therapeutics CEO Alon Bloomenfeld says the injection is expected to last between 9-12 months, but it varies from person to person. The company, like many others, was created accidentally when Hebrew University Professor Shmuel Ben-Sasson was conducting a completely different research project on test mice, unrelated to weight loss. But during the research, he realized that a particular injection was causing the mice to lose weight. This sparked the idea behind Raziel Therapeutics’s offering, now in clinical development.
If you’ve ever found yourself standing in front of the refrigerator or at a restaurant, wondering what to eat, look no further. Israeli company Nutrino Health has developed a tailored-to-your-needs food app that recommends exactly what you should consume and when. And while there are numerous “diet apps,” this personal nutritionist fits right in your pocket and gathers information about your health goals, current health status, and food preferences. Then, using machine learning and algorithms, it develops personalized meal options based on preferences. The Nutrino app connects to other fitness apps like Runkeeper and Fitbit, and calculates physical activity and sleep cycle, contributing to a personalized, optimal diet for each user.
The company, founded in 2011 by Yaron Hadad and Jonathan Lipnick won the Israel Innovation Authority’s Biomed Startup of the year in the digital healthcare category in 2017. A year prior, the company announced a data partnership with Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical equipment development companies, to give people with diabetes an individualized picture on meal suggestions, nutritional information, and insight into how their food intake impacts their glucose levels.
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Have you ever tried out the latest diet, only to find yourself gaining weight instead of losing it? According to Day Two, an Israeli startup specializing in personalized nutrition, what’s healthy for others may not necessarily be healthy for you. By studying each person’s individual metrics and gut microbiome – a vast collection of bacteria that we host in our bodies – Day Two translates this unique bacteria into personalized insights, helping with weight loss.
Founded in 2015 by immunologist Eran Elinav and computer scientist Eran Segal, both from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Day Two was set up based on a five-year research study into intestinal bacteria. Its initial focus was on blood glucose. The two developed an algorithm which they said could predict sugar spikes in diabetics based on an analysis of their gut bacteria. Day Two says it uses 137 biomarkers to determine how an individual will react to specific foods.
The company takes a personal stool sample and a blood test and analyzes the sequence the DNA of gut microbiome to predict which foods are good for a particular individual and only them. A customized diet is then created, complete with suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and a personalized nutrition app. The cost is a one-time fee of $500.
The company has raised $17 million so far, including from US multinational Johnson & Johnson and the Mayo Clinic.
Lastly, Day Two sends you a personalized nutrition app, which normalizes blood sugar levels and leads to efficient weight loss for a one-time fee of $500. Based on a five-year research study conducted by Professor Eran Segal and Professor Eran Elinav from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Day Two is considered to upend everything we thought we ever knew about healthy food. Featured in the Washington Post, and the New York Times, to name a few, Day Two may be the next big thing in weight loss healthcare.
Israeli startup MakeMyPlate helps people lose weight through visual eating plans offering thousands of healthy meal options. The company has developed an app that features exclusive recipes, food variety, and balanced meal options with nutritional guidelines, directing users to maximize weight loss results.
A standout feature of the app is that it helps users with portion control and calculates calories, carbs, fat, and protein. The app can even be synced with local eateries for real-life options of what to order when eating out.
The meal plans are created by celebrity fitness experts like Basheerah Ahmad, David Kirsch, and Niky Holender who work with clients such as Carrie Underwood, Heidi Klum, Kate Upton, Gerard Butler and Chris Harrison to name a few.
Led by CEO and co-founder Alin Cooperman, MakeMyPlate also offers an online guide that provides visually appealing answers to nutrition-related questions.