David Block is the Founder & CEO of Previnex, a nutritional supplement company that is committed to using science, clinically-tested ingredients and going above and beyond the testing and production standards required in the industry.
Previously, David was a hedge fund manager focused on the health and wellness industry. He specialized in nutritional supplements, reading clinical studies, touring manufacturing facilities, meeting with various companies, and immersing himself in the supplement and wellness industry on all levels. This wealth of knowledge drove him to change the industry and start Previnex.
In this week’s podcast, Sonya spoke with David about his path to the supplement industry, how to select the right supplements and his vision for Previnex.
“And so I give it like the one two punch of our food is not as nutrient dense as it once was, unfortunately, but number two, I mean, nutritional science has really evolved over the last 10 to 20 years where we now understand and can test what are the optimal levels of each vitamin and mineral that you need for protection and optimal health and it is just impossible to get it through food, which is where nutritional supplements can help. I would also say, because this is important, diet is the foundation. So supplements are a tool, but you can’t out supplement a bad diet. And health is not just a one solution – diet, exercise, supplementation, sleep, stress management, these are all really important pillars. I make that point because you can’t out supplement some of the other stuff.”– David Block
- Where do you draw your identity from
- Remaining flexible as you carve your path
- What it means to live a value-based life
- How to know a quality supplement
- Do we even need supplements?
- Why do vitamins have high percentages?
- Get Health, Give Health – providing nutrition and hope to children around the world
- Learn more about Previnex
- Get 15% off your first Previnex order using code sonya15
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Sonya Looney: David, welcome to the show.
David Block: It’s great to be with you, Sonya.
Sonya: We’ve had so many fun conversations before recording this podcast. So a lot of times I don’t have that luxury to have spent a fair bit of time talking to my guests beforehand, so this is like sitting down and chatting with a friend, which is really fun.
David: Totally, no, I’m really excited. It’s been so fun to get to know you, and huge fan of the podcast and the work you’re doing. So this will be a fun conversation.
Sonya: So you’ve had quite an interesting life so far. And I love hearing people’s stories because a lot of times whenever people are introduced to somebody new, they see where they’re at now. It’s not necessarily an endpoint, but they see a data point in current time. And a lot of times we don’t realize where somebody came from, actually love asking like new friends that I meet about their paths, because a lot of times you don’t realize the circuitous route that people may or may not have had. And whenever we first started chatting, you said, hey, I actually was an athlete. And you still are an athlete, obviously. But in college, I was an athlete, can you guess what sport? And we’re gonna give the audience a second to try to guess the sport? All right. Now tell us the sport.
David: Yeah. So the sport was water polo. And that was in Southern California. And, gosh, so many great memories of water polo. But that was the sport. I wish people would guess basketball. So I went to UCLA. And I would have loved to play basketball there, but it was water polo.
Sonya: Did you ever play basketball growing up?
David: You know what? I think my parents were really good about exposing me to so many different things, not just athletics, but arts, and just all sorts of different things, music. So I played football, basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, etc, etc. But water polo, actually, by accident, kind of became the sport and really good run there. And so many great memories of playing.
Sonya: So you said you’re exposed to lots of different things growing up. And a lot of times people will latch on to an identity, especially in high school, because, I mean, we’re always sort of searching for our identity, but especially as an adolescent. With all of those things that you’re doing, did you latch on to any one identity?
David: Yeah, you know, for sure, when high school came about, and I kind of realized that I had some talent and ability and gifting maybe in water polo, and even when I shouldn’t have had this vision, I had a vision for like, I want to get a scholarship. I want to play in college. And yeah, I think it probably became my identity. It was athlete water polo going all in and maybe even in an unhealthy ways. But I was younger, and kind of just figuring it out. And some things I now know. And I’ve been able to adjust kind of perspective and whatnot. But yeah, for sure being an athlete and being a water polo player, and getting to that next level and having some exposure with the US team. I mean, it was my identity.
Sonya: Yeah, so how to how did you not continue to get lost in wanting to go all in on the things that you that you do, and we’ll talk about some of the things you did after that, but high achievers and people who are very passionate can easily fall into the trap of over identifying with the thing that they’re doing, and also in an unhealthy way striving so hard. So how do you manage that now?
David: Yeah, I mean, I think the question really is where do you draw your identity from? And, and the risk is, I mean, I saw it with water polo. I’ve seen it in other areas. I mean, if you do go all in, it’s just man, it’s a trap, actually. And it’s gonna be hard to get fulfilled. And so I think part of it is asking bigger questions, which I’ve done is kind of, wherever you come from, like spiritual or religious background, but it’s like, why am I here? And what’s the point? And I think for me, it’s really, we all have unique giftings and abilities and talents and I think it was just trying to answer the question of, what is the best use of this kind of unique way that I’ve been made with different passions and talents? And how can I just serve others with these gifts and talents and, and it becomes more about not the identity of the entrepreneur, but it’s okay, I’m here to help and serve people and create health for people. And I don’t know, maybe that’s not the greatest answer, but that’s kind of how I’ve gotten out of the trap of just my identity is my company or my identity is my whatever it is, my athleticism or it’s just having a bigger, broader perspective of the impact I can have with the gifts and abilities I’ve been given.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that this is a journey that we all are going through and all becoming in our life. And I think what you’re referring to is sort of the journey to transcendence of not how can I only be my best, but how can I utilize my best so that other people can be brought up with me? And I think it’s a hard journey to go through to get to that point. And I don’t think it’s an endpoint either. I think that there’s a lot of wiggling around. But I think in some cases, you have to have touch that hot stove to realize that wow, this isn’t the way to fulfillment or wellbeing per se. It’s one of the roads there. But there’s so much more to it than that. And that is part of the journey.
David: For sure. You nailed it there. Yep.
Sonya: So I mean, you also went to Pepperdine law school. So let’s hear about that.
David: So my background is a little a little wonky. So I went to UCLA, and scholarship athlete, and kind of figured out that water polo wasn’t going to pay the bills. And so it was like, okay, well, what am I supposed to do, because my whole life has been poured into the sport. And there’s just an end in sight, at least, the competitive side. And so I was a history major. I kind of got some advice my freshman year. We at UCLA, you have counselors, just for the athletes. And the advice was, hey, just whatever, major most interests you, that’s what you should do, because you’re basically here to play sports. And it’s like, oh, I love history. Great. That makes sense. But then I realized what am I going to do with history? And so I kind of got into finance and investing. Just self-studying on my own, it just piqued my interest. And law school was really just a route to really fortify my resume. I think I knew I wanted a graduate degree at the time. And I just thought, listen, I can go to law school, I can get a master’s or a doctorate degree in law, and just self-study and really polish up my resume with some finance and investing chops. And then I’ll be marketable outside of law school. And I think it’s interesting. So my plan was not really law, I was never going to be a lawyer. But it’s funny how the journey of life happens, because go to law school, and that first year is so challenging. Especially for me, I had no passion or interest in being a lawyer. But you can’t help but have your mind trained to think a certain way. And so like connecting dots of wow, that was really instrumental in helping me as a research analyst, kind of ask the right questions and look at both sides of issues really well, but that’s law school kind of fit in for like, hey, I can get a graduate degree, give myself three years to just shape the career I want. And, yeah, that was kind of, there was a little bit of risk there. But that’s why I went to law school.
Sonya: I’m smurking a little bit because number one, going to law school, for some people is their life dream. And it’s, it’s almost impossible for some people to get into law school, and the process of law school is very challenging. My cousin is an attorney. And she is incredibly brilliant. And I talked to her frequently when she was in law school. So I’m smiling about that she wanted to be a lawyer, I just went to law school so I could figure it all out and have the credibility, I needed to move forward. And I’m also smiling because I can relate with this story so much, because I got my master’s degree in electrical engineering, but I did not like engineering. And there was a way of learning how to think and a way of learning how to take on challenges that has served me in my life. And I think it’s an important thing for people listening, especially younger people of well, I’m choosing to do this thing but that doesn’t mean that you have to do that forever. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get value out of it. And if you don’t know exactly what your path is going to look like, it’s okay to do something that might seem a little bit weird.
David: Totally. Yeah. So one of my passions is actually mentoring people, and specifically entrepreneurs now, just given this crazy journey I’ve been on. And it’s such a hot question that comes up, it’s like, should I do this? People feel like, oh, my gosh, if I don’t do this finance job, or this corporate job, I’m a failure, or I’m not on the right track, but the advice I gave is, just put one foot in front of the other, and you’re just going to learn what you like, what you don’t like, and kind of be spurred on by ideas of, oh, I maybe prefer to do this role or that role. And so it’s just, yeah, you kind of almost, there’s really no wrong place to start. You just kind of course correct. And, and the journey takes you there.
Sonya: Yeah, I think having that flexibility is challenging. But also having that flexibility, it can allow you to let your path change because I think a lot of times people will set a five-year goal and then they get set in stone to achieve that goal. And then they miss out on opportunities that could have led them off that path but to an even better one.
David: Yeah, flexibility so huge.
Sonya: So speaking of, so you launch a successful finance career from there with all of your background and you opened your own hedge fund. So what was that process like?
David: Yeah, so also going back to the identity question, this is a big one. So I think one of the things I learned with water polo was okay, I have no business setting this hairy, audacious goal of barely being able to swim, and wanting to earn a scholarship and play at the highest levels, at least in the US. And I just had a vision for it, I did it. And then it was like, okay, water polo is over. finance and investing makes sense. So then I was like, okay, I want to run a hedge fund. I read a careers and finance book. It made a lot of sense to me of like, wow, you can use your brain to do research and potentially make large sums of money, and that my values were way off track at that point in my life.
Sonya: What were they?
David: Well, it was just more like, I don’t know, just living for myself, it was like, how do I make as much money as possible and have as much fun as possible and get as much status and power and just these things that I think are not kind of…I don’t know, at least personal philosophy is not where, at least for me, a healthy place to aim. And there’s I have so many stories that but the hedge fund was reading careers in finance book, and I just was totally it just captured my all my imagination. And then it was like, alright, well, I’m a history major law student, how do we get there? So what’s step 1,2,3,4,5. And so my first job out of law school was that I was a research analyst at an investment bank, and I kind of looked into the health and wellness space as my space, had a lot of success there, which we can unpack. But ultimately, it was for one aim, which was I want to launch this hedge fund and ended up raising money, launching the fund and I think that’s where some of the bigger life questions started to come up, because I had given so much of my life to this pursuit of that. I mean, just workaholic, Thanksgivings coming up, as of the date we’re recording this in the US. And I remember I go to the office on Thanksgiving, it just worked the whole day, because my phone’s not gonna ring. No one’s gonna bother me. Like, this is amazing. And that’s so unhealthy.
Sonya: By the way, I’m squirming in my chair because I have those tendencies myself. And that’s something that I always have to push back against.
David: Yeah, no, I mean, it’s real. It was just, all right, hedge fund, hedge fund, hedge fund, do it all. And then I’m there. And I guess on paper, you could say, I was living the American dream, but inside, I was so miserable. And I think I realized, this is not what I’m supposed to be doing. I just had this real deep-down feeling. And then it was tricky, because it’s like, well, gosh, this is what I’ve spent so many years trying to achieve? And then so what do I do now? And now, there was a lot of soul searching, and a lot of just big questions I was trying to tackle kind of alluding to what I said earlier, like, why am I here? What’s the purpose of this? And, and some of it, too, is just childhood stuff. You know, my parents got divorced when I was seven. I saw a lot of dysfunction, there was a lot of trauma. And I just kind of made a vow to myself as a young teenager, I am going to break these crazy generational cycles. And I’m gonna be there for my kids, I’m going to invest in them. When I have a wife one day, like I said, this vision of dad and father, and that a father, same thing, but like husband and what life might look like and what I would do differently as a result of some of these things. And so, there I am running a hedge fund, where you can literally work an unlimited number of hours, because you’re competing with a lot of different people who are willing to outwork and out do you in ethical and unethical ways. And, and I just was like, yeah, I don’t want my life to go this way. Because I made a vow to myself as a youngster and I can see where this is gonna go. Maybe I can make a lot of money, but it’s not the point. And no it’s not. And so how, so what do I do with that? And then then the big questions start, I started asking myself those questions and ultimately took a different path from that point on.
Sonya: Did you have the courage to ask those questions because especially when you’re in this really frenetic environment where you’re working super hard, you’re enjoying working super hard. And that’s maybe where you’re getting your meaning from. If you’re feeling miserable inside maybe there’s that meaning that’s missing. It’s really hard to be honest with yourself, whenever you have those conversations with yourself, and then even harder is to actually listen to those conversations and make changes. So how did you manage to do that?
David: Yeah, I mean, I think part of it was just brought on by how miserable I was. And it was like, this is not how things should be. So that was part one, and it was like I need to do something because there is some real big disconnect going on. And I think too, I mean, it goes back to childhood stuff. I mean, I was, for example, I was born into a Jewish family, went to Hebrew school, had a Bar Mitzvah. Never really made sense to me that, because you’re born into a specific religion, and that’s just what you’re supposed to believe. And so maybe like bookmark on that was, it’d be interesting to maybe one day figure out, is there any truth to some of this stuff? And so just questions like that with linger throughout my life. And then I think the crescendo was just, yeah, I mean, I’m in New York City, running the hedge fund, I’m miserable. And I’m like, I have to do deeper work now because if I don’t, I just can’t foresee my life continuing in this direction. And it was like I needed a life preserver thrown at me to get me out of this. And because I just had it, I could see where life was going to head if I was going to continue on that. So misery plus bookmarks along the way. And then just yeah, the big life questions like, why are we here? What’s the purpose of this? And I think I answered those for myself. And different people have different answers to those questions. But that was really important work for so many reasons just for my own health, my own spiritual health and prioritizing what values matter and what don’t. And deprioritizing my dreams. I guess the best way to say it, there’s a quote I read that kind of nails it, it’s a better life. And it says, we live a better life when we let our values shape our dreams and our priorities rather than letting our dreams and our priorities shape our values. And I think I was sick of letting my dreams and priorities shape my values. It was like backwards living. And I just realized, like, no, this is a value driven thing and let that let that guide how I’m going to kind of spend the rest of my life and how I’m going to try to help other people instead of just being selfish and focusing on myself and my own desires for power and all that stuff. That was backwards.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, you say it like it sounds so easy the way that you say it, but I can imagine how challenging that was that time of inflection and the things that you were able to find. You mentioned you found some more spiritual awakening.
David: Yep, for sure. And through that process, I mean, I think this is where you know, that just the pitstops of life just add up to kind of shape outcomes. And so, I mean, law school taught me how to think critically about different issues and two sides of issues. So being a research analyst and having a successful career as a research analyst, then I’m getting to this, like crescendo moment, and I’m like, alright, let’s just start to unpack this. What are the two most prevailing theories of why we’re here like the Big Bang, on one hand, God created all this on the other. In my view, both equally preposterous things, but let’s just start to go to work and research this. And I think I looked at every religion. I looked at best arguments for and against, and just really went to town and kind of landed, I think the Christian worldview makes the most sense to me. And this is obviously a personal philosophy. But I think it’s just man, it’s done so poorly and wrong in some cases. I think the core tenants of serve others first, you know, love your neighbor as yourself. That kind of stuff really resonated and made sense to me and introduced trying to really live that out versus just, it’s one thing to talk the talk, it’s a different thing to walk the walk, and I’m certainly a work in progress, but I think walking the walk, if one can do it, which is really hard is super attractive, because it’s it really is about serving and loving other people, and then getting deep joy and satisfaction from doing that.
Sonya: Yeah, so well said. I mean, understanding what your values are and then making sure that you’re living in alignment with those values is really challenging, because sometimes those values can compete, like your value list could compete. And that’s also something that it’s hard to figure out sometimes, what values that you want to emphasize in the moment.
David: Yeah, totally. And I encourage people like mentorship or friends is, figure out. So these big life questions are important. So real story, I had one of my closest friends from law school, who she just unexpectedly died a few weeks ago, and I think I probably am guilty of just assuming I’m gonna live this long, like die of old age, healthy and I put so much emphasis on health and it’s integrated into my core values. But I realized, I mean, if this can happen or her, this was a tennis player at you at USC, just such a great person, I mean, really a tremendous person, it can happen to me. Life really is like a vapor. And we don’t know when the end is near. And so relating that back to, I think it’s really important to ask these big life questions now because life’s gonna go by pretty fast. And I just know how I lived when I was a water polo, hedge fund, like just chasing the wrong things, and the real internal friction that was there through that, when I wasn’t living out any sort of value based life versus this more purposeful life, and just the joy and peace that has brought me. Gosh, I’m glad I did that work because you were right. I mean, like you said, maybe it’s easy to say in hindsight, but it was hard work. I mean, it really was, yeah, a lot of painful moments and just different things. And anyway…
Sonya: So how did you move into the supplement world?
David: Yeah, so when I was a research analyst, I ended up getting promoted to cover my own industry, and that industry was health and wellness. And my specialization was nutritional supplements. So for my job for many years was reading clinical studies on nutritional supplements, touring supplement manufacturing facilities, meeting with executives of supplement companies, meeting with investors and supplement companies like learning the physiology of what different nutrients do at a cellular level, sourcing, I mean, all things nutritional supplements was where I lived for many years, and I just became an expert in that industry. And it gave me a front row seat at some of the nuance and some of the challenges and problems of the industry. And so I’d say the two things that jumped out at me when I was an analyst, were number one, there was all this proper clinical data, like peer reviewed, published data that supported the health benefits of taking advanced levels of certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omegas, probiotics, etc. And I think for me, Sonya, it was like, really jarring, because I was like, wait a second, like, I’ve never learned this before. And I just remember, I never took supplements, ever, like I had this real negative bias towards supplements. I still actually don’t know where that bias came from. But I’m reading all this data and I’m thinking on one hand, this could really have helped me in my athletic career. But on the other, this is going to help me going forward with longevity, performance, everyday health. And so that struck me and I just became really passionate about telling people about what I was learning, because I just felt like I have a responsibility. This can really help create health and people’s lives, this information. The second thing that jumped out at me was just how predatory and exploitative the industry is, and was, I guess, was and still is. And so, technically the industry is regulated, but it’s really not. It’s more of like a self-policing standard, where, unless a consumer has a background in nutritional science, they have a 0% chance of understanding what products are going to benefit them, what ingredients are going to benefit them. And it just drove me nuts. Now, my goal was, at the time, like hedge fund blinders were on. But these were really important seeds that were planted. And I just became more and more frustrated about just the predatory nature of the industry and how consumers were getting duped and just had no shot, again, at figuring out any of this, right? Unless really, unless you have a background in nutritional science. So as I’m running the hedge fund, and I realized, I’ve got to break away from this, but what does that look like? Because that was not kind of an easy thing at the time. I think just something interesting happened. I had in a really unusual way, I had people coming at me left and right, asking me about supplements. Not super unusual, because people be like, hey, I know you’re the expert in supplements. Can you look at this product? Or what should I be taking for this? Or what should I be paying for that? But it was this cluster that was just rapid fire left, right, coming from everywhere. And I remember just kind of taking a step back and saying, well, gosh, these passions, I still have, I still haven’t seen this done really well yet. And maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Like maybe this can express my gifts and talents to their highest abilities, through serving others and creating a platform around creating health in other people’s lives and, and that’s probably step one, but then like, what can we do even bigger than that? Invest in communities and transform culture and just do bigger things with the starting point being let’s create best in class products and create health in other people’s lives. Which it almost makes me upset that that wasn’t the standard and that I had to start a company. But that’s just the supplement industry.
Sonya: Yeah, I want to dig into the supplement industry a little bit, because it’s not, as you said, it’s not really regulated. It’s about self-policing. And if somebody walks into a store, a health food store or grocery store or Walmart, whatever, and they look at the supplement shelf, and there’s tons of different brands claiming percentages of whatever vitamins and minerals, the pricing is all over the map from super cheap to really expensive to things that you don’t even know if you need. How are people even supposed to know what to take? And I think that that’s where the skepticism comes from, it seems like there’s a lot of a lot of variance and the price of something. And that’s super confusing to people.
David: Yeah, I mean, oh, gosh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But yeah, I think a product is only going to be as good as the underlying ingredients that are in the product. So just a philosophy we have at Previnex is we’re going to use the highest quality, most clinically effective and beneficial ingredients, regardless of cost in the products, because that’s what ultimately is going to drive and deliver the health benefits to the consumer. And so one of the things, you can take any letter vitamin, so vitamin C, most people don’t realize there’s all sorts of different forms of vitamin C, and vitamin E and vitamin B, and folate and, etc, etc, etc. And so the reason that the price points can be really quite varying is, I mean, and it’s also going to be dependent like Walmart, we would call that the mass market channel. And products are specifically designed to meet a price point and so you can expect the lowest quality forms of the ingredients are going to be in there because again consumers aren’t going to know. And so the price is going to vary based on quality of ingredient. That’s number one. It’s going to vary based on marketing budget, because we see, as an example, like we there’s a competitive probiotic to ours, well, I don’t even know it’s competitive, but it has 1 billion bacteria, versus we have 30 billion bacteria. So we have 30 times more bacteria. They have one strain, we have six. We have six times more strains, also all clinically studied strains. And then we have a prebiotic, they don’t. Theirs is a $35 to $40 product at Walgreens. And we’re like a $30-35 product, so what that tells me is, the marketing budget is so big that it has to support a price point, because they’re just marketing to doctors’ offices nonstop, with 30 times less bacteria, six times less strains, no prebiotic, and it really is wild, wild west. I mean marketing, and it’s not just the supplement industry, right, marketing drives consumer purchasing behavior. And I can tell you so many stories, you would just shake your head. I know we’re on video, but this will be on audio, but it’s yeah, it’s the wild wild west. Price points are set indiscriminately. They should be set on like, you know, hey, this is the quality of ingredients. This is the cost of the overall cost of the product, and what’s the acceptable price point we can sell this at to cover our costs, etc.
Sonya: Yeah, and like something that I struggle with is that whenever you pick up a bottle, it says it has something in it, but it might not even have that in it. So how do you know what’s a good supplement brand and what isn’t?
David: Yeah, that’s such a good point. I’ll describe the supplement industry sometimes, it’s like the Pizza Hut standard, which is if you go to Pizza Hut’s website, and you look at what is a slice of pizza with pepperoni, what are the calories and the fat, the protein, the carbs, all that, you’re gonna get something that pops out, right. But if we order a pizza, I may have a bigger slice, you may have a smaller slice, I may have more pepperonis, you may have less pepperoni. So this is unfortunately like the supplement industry. It’s an approximation of what is going to be in the supplement. And it’s very imprecise. And that drives me nuts because people can do this, right? And so we kind of at baseline, look at it like, alright, we’re gonna follow the same stringent manufacturing protocols of the pharmaceutical industry. And that includes ingredient testing for every ingredient, production run testing, but the finished product testing. But to specifically answer your question, the only way you’re going to know is if you go to a company and say, may I please see your certificate of analysis on this product? And what the certificate of analysis is, it’s post production testing that unfortunately, most companies don’t do, but of the companies that do do it, you will see, okay, r omega, I’m just gonna use as an example, has 600 milligrams of EPA and 500 milligrams of DHA per two soft gels, so per soft gel its 300 EPA , 200 DHA, the fatty acids. When we test it, you’ll see like 302 milligrams versus 300 milligrams and 200. And you know, 251 versus 250. So you actually have data that says, oh, what’s on the label…and by the way, even though it’s off by one or two milligrams, that’s still considered pharmaceutical precision. And we just present that data because we win with data there, but that’s the only way you can do it. So I encourage people, it’s like, hey, go get a certificate of analysis and knowing that 99.9% chance, they’re not going to get it because companies either don’t do it, or when they test, they have these wildly varying levels, and they wouldn’t be comfortable presenting that to the consumer, because they just wouldn’t…consumers would be like no thank you. Again, I would know none of this had I not been a research analyst, right. But thankfully, I’ve got the background so we can hopefully do it better.
Sonya: Yeah, and then my next question, following that skepticism train is if a company presents you with a certificate or with some testing, how does the consumer know that they didn’t just make it up? Or that because with some research studies, sometimes those studies are actually not good studies, because maybe the study wasn’t designed appropriately, maybe it hasn’t been peer reviewed, maybe they just had funding that has skewed the way that they are reporting information. So how do you know, if someone came to you or another company, how do they know that this is actual, like real science and not pseudoscience?
David: Yeah, so I think a couple things. So one on the ingredient front, for the very kind of heart of your question, the skeptical, and I was the biggest skeptic, right, never took this stuff ever until I had the kind of educational background. But there are clinically studied ingredients. And we kind of I mentioned before, like we’re trying to use the highest quality, most clinically effective and beneficial ingredients. But on top of that, we’re using ingredients that have been through human clinical studies. In every case, we can, not every ingredient has unfortunately been through this. But then there’s published research around that ingredient. So we can present that research to the consumer. Like our joint health supplement, we can make the claim that the main active ingredient, reduces joint pain reduces joint stiffness, improves joint flexibility in seven to 10 days, and protects joint cartilage from breakdown during exercise. These are gigantic claims, like gigantic, but we have that clinical data we’ll present and you can see what peer reviewed medical journal, the study appeared in what was the population size of the group. Was it a proper multicenter, double blind, placebo controlled clinical study or just like…? Another trick is like, oh, it’s the third party tested in our garage type of stuff. Right? So that’s a piece of it. But it’s hard, Sonya, I mean, you’re not going to be like if someone wants to doctor a certificate of analysis, they could. But I think a question I used to ask as an analyst, and I still think it’s an appropriate question to ask is, is this a nutritional science company? Or is this a marketing company that happens to sell nutritional supplements? And if that’s the question you ask, as a consumer, I think you could pretty quickly research what is the best form of vitamin B6? Or what is the best form of vitamin B12? And if you go to a label, and you see that, that form is not being used pretty quickly, you can you can get to the conclusion that like, okay, this company is really not using the best stuff. And that’s going to just bleed through their operation, despite whatever fancy language they’re using on their website. So that there’s little things that you could do like that, to cut through the noise.
Sonya: Another question that people might be thinking is, why do I even need to take a supplement? Like, can’t I just eat the right foods? And how do I even know what I need to take?
David: Yeah, a great question. So I think there’s a couple ways to answer this. So I mean, I think 50, 60, 70 years ago, fruits and vegetables were coming like straight from the farm, and nutrients are delivered through the soil. I mean, this is how you get your nutrients. I think, one issue is with mass food production, you have depletion of nutrients in fruits and vegetables. So a tomato or an orange, the density of nutrients in that 50 or 60 years ago is totally different than today. It’s just been depleted of nutrients because it’s mass produced, and how do we get the biggest, shiniest looking fruit to the grocery store, and it’s just a different game now with mass food production. The other thing like the breadth, soyou’ve got to pry your kind of color of the rainbow because different, so eggplant has different nutrients than blueberries that has different nutrients from oranges. And so it is hard even at baseline, let’s say you don’t need advanced levels of this, let’s just which I’m going to, in a second, present the argument that you do need advanced levels. But it’s even if you don’t, it’s hard to get the breadth that you need just intuitively like eating all the different colors that provide different nutrients. But when you actually unpack the science and look at it…so I’ll give you just one letter vitamin, as an example, like vitamin E, the clinical data that we have read, shows that 400 international units of vitamin E is kind of the optimal level. And so when we can take give you vitamin E, we could draw your blood 30 minutes later, 60 minutes later, 90 minutes later, and then put it under a microscope, we can test oxidative stress markers. And so if we gave you 300 international units of vitamin E versus 500, we have found that 400 is the number. That’s the optimal level where your cells are best protected, delivers the best health benefits. So now let’s translate that to food. To get 400 international units of vitamin E from food, that would be 28.8 pounds of spinach per day, or 2.3 pounds of almonds per day. So just on that alone, it just becomes impractical to get what you need from food alone. And so I give it like the one two punch of our food is not as nutrient dense as it once was, unfortunately, but number two, I mean, nutritional science has really evolved over the last 10 to 20 years where we now understand and can test what are the optimal levels of each vitamin and mineral that you need for protection and optimal health and it is just impossible to get it through food, which is where nutritional supplements can help. I would also say, because this is important, like diet is the foundation. So supplements are a tool, but you can’t out supplement a bad diet. And health is not just a one solution, diet, exercise, supplementation, sleep, stress management, these are all really important pillars. I make that point because you can’t out supplement some of the other stuff.
Sonya: Yeah, I love that you say that the food is the foundation, and the supplement is a tool because I think that a lot of people will maybe just say oh, whatever, I’m taking supplements, so I’m going to eat, you know, unhealthy foods, processed foods, whatever nutrient deficient foods, and I’ll just added in with the supplements.
David: Yeah, no, I mean, diet is like 80% of the equation. But even a great diet without good sleep habits and exercise habits, and I mean, it all works synergistically. But then it gets back to the fundamental question, you kind of raised it, is like, alright, supplements definitely are important. But then it’s like, well, how do I even wade through the craziness of it? Right? So it’s so frustrating to me, because like the movie The Matrix, which I don’t know, if you’ve seen the movie, The Matrix, where I could like plug in and download everything I know about nutritional supplements, the industry, I wish I could just do that across the board. And even just, the physiology of like food and just different things. Because it’s so critically important for long term health, but it’s such a shady, complicated industry on purpose. Again, it’s super predatory and exploitative. But enough of that I’ve kind of made the point, right. It’s a crazy industry.
Sonya: Yeah, well, I mean, that’s why we’re having this conversation and why I was so excited to meet you and to learn about Previnex because I’m a skeptic. And whenever I am taking supplements, I’m kinda like, I don’t even know if this is doing anything, but I’m doing it because I know that I’m supposed to do this. So it was really nice, you actually showed me a lot of the research and a lot of the studies and what is actually in the Prevenix supplements, and that was so cool that I can actually take something that I trust, and having that trust, this is even a broader discussion that we don’t necessarily need to get into. But even with pharmaceuticals, or vaccines, like it’s a huge, huge can of worms of trusting what experts are saying, what the science says. And then it’s up to the individual to interpret that data. And individuals are going to be interpreting that in all different ways.
David: Totally. And you know, another point, I mean, science evolves and it’s a fluid thing. So we have, just as an example, I mean, we have reformulated our multivitamin, I think three times because 10 years ago, we just didn’t have as good a clinical data on a specific nutrient that maybe had like a 50/50 do you go with this form versus that form, but then the science changes and you have more data and it becomes more clear. And so we’re kind of open to that because we know that the science can change and it’s fluid. But yeah, where do you get your data? Who do you trust, and it’s it, it’s not a supplement industry specific thing. Like, there’s problems in a lot of different industries.
Sonya: So back to supplements, we were starting to talk about this before we hit record, whenever you pick up a bottle, it’ll say vitamin C 333%, or 1,000%. And all the supplement companies have different percentages. And why are those numbers so high? Why would you want to take something that’s 500% of your recommended value?
David: Yeah. So it’s a great question. Let me let me tell you where they come from, for so the percentage DV was in the US was promulgated. I think in like World War II, we wanted soldiers to know they were getting 100% of the daily value of everything, so they could perform well on the battlefield. And so you fast forward, so the supplement industry, technically is regulated by the FDA, but really isn’t. But there are still some FDA policies that stick. And one of those is the FDA assigns a value on the percentage dv, right? Your dietary value, your daily value. So it’s very arbitrary. This is what I’ve come to learn over the last 10 years, because as an example, I mean, we had vitamin B12, five years ago, in our multi is the same level as it is today. Five years ago, the percentage was 93%. Today, it’s over 1,000%, but the actual milligram has not changed. So unfortunately, this just brings up a whole other can of worms of well, how reliable is this anyway, when it’s changing? And how could you say five years ago, you’re getting under 100% of something. And now you’re saying you’re getting over 1,000%? I mean, we have not seen any science that would indicate that this is like too much. In fact, we still see the data that says it’s the optimal level for this specific nutrient. But to a broader point, I mean, companies kind of have their own philosophies of how they’re going to make products. I think there’s a lot of copycatting and what does this company do? And can we do it a little better? And, okay, let’s besides the product instead of doing like authentic research, to bring great products to market, and so you get these just weird formulations, and every multi is different, and every probiotics different and which unfortunately causes more confusion, right? But yeah, specifically, the percentage is very arbitrary. It changes every year. And I think for us, at least I can say we just look at what is the right level, not what is the right percentage, and then we just go with what the clinical data shows is the right level. But hopefully, that gives you a little more info on the percentages.
Sonya: So you want the right level, but sometimes that will mean over 100% of the daily value. That’s why you’ll see like a percentage that’s way over 100%.
David: I should have said, so the whole thing with the, again, the promulgated in World War II. And I think it was to combat malnutrition. So it was never an optimal health standard. It was a malnutrition standard, which is kind of like the lowest standard. I mean, in a developed country, it’s going to be pretty hard to be malnourished, although there are certainly pockets of people that are still malnourished in developed countries. But the standard wasn’t, again, optimal health, so and it never has been optimal health. So it’s really just what is going to help you prevent a nutritional deficiency, which is not good, right? That can lead to very bad things over time versus what is the level that’s going to deliver optimal benefits? And so that’s the real crux of why things go over 100% versus under 100%.
Sonya: And then my last question on the supplement side of things is, there’s supplements that are water soluble and supplements that are fat soluble, and if you’re already getting some of these fat soluble vitamins from your food, and then you’re additionally taking more supplements. When do you have to start worrying about toxicity?
David: So most nutrients it’s going to be, like the vitamin E example I gave earlier, it’s going to be impossible to get through food alone, but there are some minerals specifically, and even some other nutrients that you can get enough from foods. So Calcium is a great example. We barely put any calcium in our multi because you just can get it from food, it’s available. And if you’re in a age group that needs more you can supplement with more. Potassium is actually probably the best example. So we do not have potassium in our multivitamin, because you can get enough from food. It would be probably a waste and or harmful, potentially. But then it’s having care as to what it goes back to the forms like vitamin A, you can get toxicity pretty quickly if it’s in the form of like retinol palmitate, retinol acetate. There’s a preformed versus pro formed vitamin A, where one acts as a water soluble and we provide, for example, like beta carotene, because it’s almost like a water soluble form of…it’s not really water soluble…but your body only uses what it needs to and nothing else. So there’s no harm, there’s no toxicity. By the way, vitamin A toxicity can lead to blindness and like really bad things. Again, I think it comes back to like, if you’re looking for supplements, you have to make sure you are partnering with a nutritional science company that has done the research and knows, and we’re not the only one, there’s some other good companies out there. But for sure, you got to get through the marketing noise quick because you do not want to be loading up on the wrong forms of certain things. Like if potassium, some people do need to supplement potassium, but the general population does not. And if you have a high levels of potassium in your vitamin product, or taking a standalone potassium product, like you gotta watch out. I mean, there’s potential liver issues that can happen, but it just comes down to trust, you’ve got to find a brand you can trust that has done the work, and, and you should be okay if that’s the case.
Sonya: Let’s shift to the vision Previnex because creating health is your philosophy, you weave that into all the ways that you live your life. And creating health extends to more than just the individual through supplementation, you mentioned a bigger project, like supporting children in need and helping people that are actually malnourished. So can you talk about that vision with Previnex?
David: So let me let me I’ll set it with kind of the mission statement and what we believe. So we believe that creating health changes lives. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to flourish. And we know that at our healthiest, we can make our greatest impact on our families, our communities and the world. And so I think everything we do stems from that perspective of creating health and human flourishing in the lives of others. And so certainly, it starts with our customers. It extends to our partners, our employees, but yeah, we’re going to be 10 years old in April. And in the summer of 2017, we launched our get health give health program, where we donate a bottle of our premium children’s multivitamin to malnourished children with every customer order. And I just felt like we kind of had to do it. There is a subset of children who die from malnutrition, that are dying from not food or starvation, but from vitamin deficiency-based malnutrition. And it’s like, oh, hold on a second, we could solve this problem, like, as a collective community. This is a problem that should not exist, it shouldn’t have existed in 2017. It should not exist in 2022. It should not exist in 2023. And we just kind of know how to produce really high-quality vitamins. And it was like, we have a responsibility to do this, children should not be dying, because they’re not getting vitamins. And it’s not just death; it’s stunted growth. If your brain’s not developing properly, or you’re just not developing, you do not have a chance of living your best, highest quality most impactful life. And that’s tragic, because we have one life, right? And so I just felt convinced we had to do it. And so we started that program, we to date, I think now, donated 1.7 million Super Vites to malnourished kids all over. So that’s a huge passion project of mine, but vision wise, it goes way beyond that. I mean, I think supplements are the first tool, but I have ideas around, I mentioned food as the foundation and so I just know a lot about food and physiology. And so how do you educate people about food? And so we have a Previnex Cafe concept that we want to launch. First in communities that we know will embrace it that are health minded communities, and we kind of have some cool takes on how we can do that. But that it’s how do you take that concept into communities where health isn’t prevalent, and maybe that’s minority communities or underserved communities and start to teach people about health. But then even going beyond that, like I’d mentioned earlier in the conversation about, or maybe this was before we even started, but how do we serve the community where we are with excellence? So part of that is how do you create jobs? And so we relocated to a suburb of Indianapolis recently. We just felt like there were better opportunities for the company to kind of live out the vision of how do we really invest in a community. And as I’ve been learning about Indianapolis, there are huge wealth and poverty gaps. And of course, when I drive through the poverty areas, it’s like a whole system has been created, like payday lenders, and fast food and just systems that are not going to create health in the lives of the people. And so part of it’s like, could we go into a community, plant our flag there, create jobs, create a hub of education, a Previnex cafe? Do it in a way that’s affordable? And could that change a community? Could that actually then sparked other businesses to invest? I went to a conference earlier this year that talked about all the aid that has gone to Africa and actually how destructive that’s been. Because if you drop off all this rice into a community in Africa, what does that do to the to the farmers who are producing rice? It like puts them out of business? And so you’re creating actually harm. So how do you do it in a sustainable way where the community itself takes ownership, and then you’re providing jobs, so there’s more income. So now the community is investing in other businesses and could that over 10 or 20 years just transform a community? And if it can, can it then change culture, so creating health, there’s many ways to do it and creating flourishing, but what I love is like, yes, supplements are what we’re known for right now. And we have great supplements, but creating health and human flourishing is jobs. It’s education. It’s all sorts of things. I probably have a bigger vision than I’m gonna be able to execute in my lifetime. We’ll see. I’m gonna do my very best, but my vision is, can we transform communities? And if we can transform communities, can we therefore transform the world and allow people to just flourish? I mean, that’s gosh, I mean, that’s what we want to do.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, that is a big vision. And it does make an impact. Somebody that you might be interested in learning about is a guy named Stephen Ritz. And his program is called the Green Bronx Machine. And he’s in the Bronx and he works with underserved underprivileged communities, teaching them how to grow their own food indoors because not everybody lives somewhere where they can even grow their own food, and they don’t learn to enjoy healthier foods. So he actually, this is his entire mission, and he’s changed entire communities, not just in that it’s not impactful, but are not complicated, but just doing that. Yeah, you can and you are. So where can people find you if they have additional questions about the supplement industry and where can people find Previnex if they want to give it a try?
David: Yeah, so Previnex, you can go to our website, which is Previnex.com. I’m not a huge fan of social media. I’m on there because Previnex is on there and but you can find me @DavidMblock on Instagram or other social. I’m not active, it’s like pictures of my kids but we are thinking about launching a David Block health brand to really just drive education and maybe even call out some practices with the hopes that the whole industry gets lifted for the benefit of the consumer. So 2023 we might finally get that off the ground David Block health. But yeah, happy to answer questions anytime. I love this stuff. And it’s so important. So open invitation for your listeners to reach out to me if they have questions.
Sonya: Thanks so much.