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The Next, Episode #28
The plight of the American male, replacing vegetable oils, and the ultimate health checkup
Hi there, and welcome to The Next - my take on health, wellness, and brand building.
In the last 4 years I’ve founded 3 health brands (Kettle & Fire, Perfect Keto, Surely), which each do tens of millions in revenue. I’ve raised ~$20mm to build Kettle & Fire, gotten into 10k+ retail stores, bootstrapped Perfect Keto, launched 80+ SKUs… and have a small portfolio of Shopify apps I run on the side. Previously, I worked in tech and had no experience in CPG, DTC, or any other 3-letter industries.
🆕 What’s new
Men in America are in bad shape.
Not just physically (though, well, that too), but in almost every facet of life. Men now make up only 40.5% of college students, are 5x more likely to spend time in juvenile detention, and are failing high school at much higher rates (as Andrew Yang has called attention to).
Men also make up an estimated 70% of the homeless population (1), comprise 80% of diagnosed autism cases, and have seen their average wages decline since 1990 (in real terms). 4.6x more men aged 20-24 commit suicide than their female counterparts, and men are 13x more likely to be in state or federal prison (2). One-sixth of prime working-age men 25-54 are either unemployed or out of the workforce.
Things get worse. In a record stat, 27% of men report having zero sexual partners since they turned 18, up from 8% in 2008 (1). And this truly blew my mind: today, more men aged 18-34 are living with their parents than they are living with a romantic partner.
There’s also something happening at a biological level. As I’ve mentioned before, the average 22-year-old male today has the same testosterone as an average 67 year-old did… in the year 2000. In just over 20 years, our average male has seen his testosterone and average sperm count cut in half (1).
What’s going on?!
Biologically, I suspect a lot of it stems from chemical contamination (namely, endocrine-disrupting chemicals) and the fact that 6 in 10 Americans have some sort of chronic disease.
As for the other stuff… I’m not totally sure. One thing I do think is true though is that the societal conception of masculinity is changing. As the traditional, male-as-breadwinner role evolves, it begs the question: what role should men be playing in society?
This is a topic I’m very interested in, and don’t have any great answers. After all, a happy, healthy society requires happy, healthy individuals. And as far as I can tell, there’s a problem brewing with young males that seems worth digging into.
💪 Health stuff
Today, 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic illness like heart disease or diabetes, and 4 in 10 have multiple diet-related chronic diseases. Diseases that were once rare are now common, and the trendlines are only getting worse (as I’ve previously discussed).
I believe our overconsumption of toxic, inflammatory vegetable oils are one of the primary causes of the explosion in chronic illnesses. And today, I’m pumped to finally talk publicly about a company I invested in - Zero Acre Farms - that’s creating an alternative to the vegetable oils that slowly kill us as they make up 20% of the average American’s caloric intake.
In their own words:
Zero Acre Farms is on a mission to remove destructive vegetable oils from the food system. And we’re not going to stop until restaurant deep fryers, home pantries, and packaged foods around the world are finally free of these harmful oils and fats.
Vegetable oils are literally in everything. They’re in most processed foods, nearly every restaurant food, sauces, bars… the list goes on. And, they’re cheap: often made from subsidized crops like corn and soy. Which creates a problem: if you’re Zero Acre Farms, how on earth do you replace cheap commodities with something that won’t kill people?
The answer: technology! In Zero Acre’s case, they’re using fermentation to make healthier oils and fats that have lower levels of linoleic acid (which has been linked causally to disease), AND have a fraction of the negative environmental impact of today’s vegetable oil crops.
In conversations I’ve had about Zero Acre Farms, I’ve found some people are surprised I’d support a company using technology to introduce a novel ingredient into the food system. Haven’t we seen this movie before: don’t we know of the unhappy ending? I thought you were into regenerative agriculture?
Yes, yes, and yes. However, Zero Acre Farms is different. First, they’re using fermentation - a process humans have used for thousands of years - to create fats the human body already knows how to process. This isn’t a trans fat situation where scientists are cooking up a novel compound in a lab: it’s instead an application of a technology humans have used for millennia, and using it to make fats and oils that won’t kill you.
Secondly, I’m a realist. Do I wish everyone was eating only whole, local foods and cooking only with animals fats and the occasional organic extra-virgin olive or avocado oil? Sure, why not.
But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where vegetable oils make up 20% of our caloric intakes, they’re continuing to grow in popularity, and they’re in literally everything. When the societal default is eating vegetable oils and having millions of people get chronically sick, I feel pretty strongly that we have to start looking for alternatives.
To read more about Zero Acre Farms and understand how vegetable oils are killing people and the planet, I highly recommend checking out their launch post. I’m incredibly proud to be a small investor in a company I think has a shot at majorly improving how our food system works, and am excited to follow their progress.
P.S - if you (or someone you know) is working on a game-changing company or idea in the food, climate, or health spaces, please let me know as I’m actively investing in companies doing important work in these areas.
🤑 Biz stuff
I get asked for health recommendations a surprising amount for someone who’s not a doctor. Specifically, people ask me about the labs they should get, supplements to take, foods to avoid, functional movement help… pretty much anything you can imagine.
I mostly haven’t had great answers. It’s hard to find a good functional medicine doctor, hard to understand what labs you should take, and hard to suggest supplements and movement routines that are likely to make an impact without deeply understanding someone’s health journey.
More than that, staying on top of your health is hard. I know almost nobody who does an annual checkup, and only my most health-obsessed friends do anything like annual bloodwork or regularly work with a functional medicine doctor.
Why? For one, it’s confusing as hell. Finding a functional medicine doctor (FMD) in the first place ain’t easy, getting 12 different tests done is challenging, and interpreting then tracking results aren’t fun.
The last time I went to see a functional medicine doctor, she gave me 5 different blood draws I had to do (in various states of being fasted or not), 2 stool samples, 1 urine sample collection... all which I had to schedule myself with Quest or other various diagnostic companies.
It was a nightmare. And that didn’t even include the separate scans I scheduled (MRI, CAT) around cancer prevention, each of which required more scheduling and running to random office parks that offered the service.
In this confusing quagmire of labs, tests, doctors, and lifestyle recommendations, I think there’s an interesting opportunity.
What if, rather than having everyone be their own researcher, nurse, and doctor… what if you could create an all-in-one annual checkup for people who wanted to improve and optimize their health? I’m imagining a high-end, performance-oriented modern health checkup where you can get all your labs and checkups done in just a few days, in a luxurious, beautiful location. A place where people who care about their health can go annually and get all their labs done, adrenals checked, discuss diet and aging, evaluate movement patterns, and leave after 1-2 days with a full understanding of their health and a plan to improve it over the next year.
I suspect there’s demand for something like this. The Mayo Clinic executive health program does over $100M in revenue per year and is geared towards older executives making sure they don't die of cancer. However, the program is rather old-fashioned: it requires a visit to Jacksonville or Minneapolis (where the Mayo Clinic is located), and mainly focuses on early cancer detection, but doesn’t touch performance optimization for longevity.
Personally, I’d love for this to exist. I’m more neurotic about my health than most people I know, and even I would love a place where I could go for a few days to make sure I’m functioning at a high level, have no concerning health trends, and where I could get recommendations on optimizing performance.
Because this is something I want, I’m planning to pull together a mini version of the above retreat sometime this fall. I’ll be sure to keep everyone here posted as it comes together!
😌 Dope stuff on the internet
Some of my favorite things since the last newsletter (note: I don’t get paid to recommend anything here):
📰 Article - I’m concerned that humans will soon not be able to reproduce. As this article mentions, a researcher found that one of the outcomes of feeding cats an improper diet was that the third (and unhealthiest) generation of cats could no longer reproduce; they all became infertile.
The linked article covers some of the likely (horrifying) reasons why this is happening. Spoiler alert: there are a lot of environmental contaminants that are seriously harming our biology and are in all of our food, water, lotions, and creams. The article (and her Substack) are worth the read if this topic is something you’re interested in. Or, if you’re interested in potentially working on something around this topic, shoot me an email - would love to chat.
📚 Book rec - I’ve been feeling extremely overwhelmed by all that I’ve been juggling lately. Part of that is me - I really, really need to get better at saying no to stuff - and part of that is email. I just get too much of it.
That’s why I picked up Cal Newport’s latest, A World Without Email. Its logic is compelling, and I’m starting to implement many of the strategies he outlines in the book to lower my email burden. It’s also the type of book I read and get a ton of ideas: why, for example, is there not a simple SaaS tool that allows me to determine times when company-wide emails can (and cannot) be sent to other employees? Why can’t I pay a tool to hold my emails and only deliver them 1x a day? I’m not sure, but I am certainly looking forward to a better relationship with my email inbox after reading this book.
⌚ Cool product - I recently bought these compression legs for my fiancee as she trained (and recovered) from her marathon. She loves them and I’ll admit - they’re pretty darn pleasant to wear as a way to relax and recover. Especially after leg day.
🎵 Music - This Tony McGuinness set has been on repeat for me the last month. If you’re a fan of chill extended sets, this is one of my new favorites.
🏀 Random - As I’ve recently begun to re-explore the world a bit, and think about what’s new and interesting, I’m very much on the hunt for people, projects, and ideas that are doing new and interesting things. I’d love if you’d send me an article, Twitter thread, paper, or really anything that’s caught your interest over the last 2 weeks. Whether it be something weird (like aliens) or just a topic you’ve been geeking out about (like bioelectricity), let me know - I’d love to hear from y’all.
That’s all I got this month from the newly rebranded The Next - see you all in a month, and stay away from those vegetable oils!