Taking control of your health can be complicated, especially when you don’t know where to start or are presented with millions of options.
Enter Heali, a new startup launching out of stealth with a personalized platform to eliminate the guesswork for people who want to treat and manage their health conditions using evidence-based nutrition protocols.
Company co-founder and CEO Kyle Dardashti knows firsthand how difficult it is to start the nutrition journey. He is the “one” in the one in two Americans that suffer from a chronic condition that Dardashti says can be improved through nutritional coaching. He just didn’t know about it at the time.
“I’ve had Crohn’s disease since I was 15 years old,” Dardashti told TechCrunch. “It’s a battle, and I tried all different types of solutions in the pharmaceutical area. I finally thought there’s got to be some alternative ways to do this.”
After discussing alternative options with his gastrointestinal doctor, Dardashti started on a dietary protocol that had evidence of similar efficacy to some of the drugs he was already taking. Dardashti tried it, and after about four months, “felt healthier than I’ve ever felt.”
Medical nutrition model
He then began learning as much as he could about the concept of medical nutrition therapy, which he described as a way to treat and manage disease through different nutrition protocols. However, Dardashti found those protocols difficult, meaning, he basically had to become a food scientist to decipher which ingredients worked and which didn’t.
“It stripped the enjoyment out of the eating,” Dardashti said. “What was clear to me is that we can use technology to do all of the analysis so you don’t have to go through that struggle. There are so many fad diets out there that aren’t research-backed, yet so many clinically-backed diets that patients don’t know about. We think it shouldn’t take patients decades, like me, to find out that food is an option.”
The personalized nutrition and supplements market is a crowded one, estimated to be valued at $43 billion. For example, we’ve previously covered apps like Wellory, Lifesum and Zoe, to name a few.
You’ll see similar features on Heali, like meal planning and tracking, an in-app scanner for the grocery store, recipes and recommendations. However, Dardashti said what sets Heali apart is its proprietary dietitian-led, scientific literature-backed comprehensive nutritional guidance and personalized meal planning. The app’s scanning option also leverages artificial intelligence so a user can scan a restaurant menu and get recommendations on which meal options are safe.
In addition, among the library of recipes, Heali purposefully included a way to search based on a certain medical condition, health/wellness goals and dietary preferences. That has resulted in more than 30 different cuisine options with the ability to sort by cultural needs. It also received recognition from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control following in-market testing and clinical trials.
When Heali was first developing its platform, it was focused on 30 chronic conditions, including autoimmune diseases, allergies, neurological conditions and variations of cancer. Today that has grown to more than 200 conditions, many with their own specific nutrition protocols. Due to its dietary engine, Heali is considered the “first clinical grade hyper-personalized nutrition platform that can support medical nutrition therapy at scale,” Dardashti said.
In its beta period, patients with irritable bowel syndrome who participated in a clinical trial of Heali saw 2.6 times the improvement in their quality of life and their symptoms improved 2x over those in the trial who did not use Heali.
Heali provides its app via healthcare partnerships, like the one it has with Boston Heart Diagnostics. It is also offered as a standalone software-as-a-service option, called Heali Intel, for food businesses looking to provide food-as-medicine offerings. The startup is still in the very early stages, though Dardashti disclosed Heali has more than 10,000 users today.
Today, the company announced $3 million in seed funding led by Astanor Ventures. Dardashti intends to use the capital to accelerate product development and partnership acquisition and grow its commercialization model of medically tailored meal suggestions. There are also plans to offer a one-on-one health coach offering and to expand its Instacart grocery delivery relationship to include custom meal kit delivery options.
“I’ve met so many people who don’t know diet is an option, and I hope that we can use Heali to make a world where food isn’t the last option, it is the first option,” Dardashti said.
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