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Akash Shah and Craig Elbert of Care/of

The vitamin-conscious guys on their personalised prescriptions, the supplements to pop to manage health risks from vices and what people want above all — apart from good health.

Want to know what vitamins and supplements you should be taking? Then take Care/of’s short and sweet online quiz, where you answer questions about your health goals, lifestyle and what you’d like to get out of a supplement. In minutes, your recommended daily intake will appear on the screen in a poof of magic dust.

Founded by Wharton graduates Akash Shah, previously the co-founder of Hometeam, a healthcare start-up helping senior adults, and Craig Elbert, who previously spent four years as VP of Marketing at Bonobos, an e-commerce-driven men’s apparel company, Care/of takes users’ quiz answers to recommend a monthly personalised prescription. 

Armed with the belief that the one-size-fits-all approach to health is outdated, Care/of’s custom method is poised to take on health food stores in a big way. There are over a million combinations that can be created from its current 27 ingredients, including specialty ones like fish oil, veggie omega, CoQ10, astaxanthin and digestive enzymes.

There’s something special and simple about Care/of’s model, what with major health concerns in mind — from prenatal to bones to brain health — to the pill packs packaging, and the classification of each supplement based on a review of research across five levels of strength. It’s honest and conscious, and just the kind of subscription we’d sign up for.

“If you are 100 per cent healthy and feeling great, you may still be missing some of the nutrients that your body needs for your best long-term health.”

Careof personalised vitamin pack for Apres Avant

Care/of’s vitamin and supplements model is a “personalised offering that also feels personal”

Vitamin start-ups are popping up across the board as consumers are becoming more health conscious than ever before. What’s unique about Care/of and what are the brand’s unique selling points?

We created Care/of based on the principles of honest guidance, better ingredients and a personalised approach. The typical experience of wandering the vitamin aisle with little idea of what you should be taking can be frustrating and overwhelming. At Care/of, we’ve created a unique, personalised experience that helps people find the right products for them.

We ask people who visit our website to share a few details about their health, which we use to recommend the best supplements for their needs and goals. Our recommendations are based on peer-reviewed research and input from our Scientific Advisory Board — a team of doctors and researchers.

We’re innovating with technology and backing it up with empathetic customer service, and the result is a personalised offering that also feels personal. 

What supplements should millennials be taking regularly, and why?

It really depends on what each person’s needs are. Everyone has concerns and things they want to improve, so a one-size-fits-all approach is not usually the best choice for every lifestyle. Rather than prescribing vitamins for different demographics, we encourage people to consider what their health needs are and try to empower them to find the best quality products that work for them.

That said, there are some supplements that we recommend quite often because they meet the needs for a lot of people. One example is vitamin D, which most people don’t actually get enough of from their diet.

Are there any vitamins or supplements that are great for managing health risks that come from drinking and smoking?

Sometimes the choices we make in our daily lives can impact our vitamin and mineral levels, and supplementation is a great way to make sure you don’t become deficient.

Magnesium is one of those minerals: caffeine and alcohol deplete magnesium in our bodies, and deficiencies can affect energy, sleep, regularity and migraine headaches. If you drink more than five drinks in a single day, that can also have consequences for your liver.

Milk thistle supports liver health, and is one of the longest-studied herbs out there.

Calcium, the mineral that supports bone health, can also be depleted by caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. If you’re a smoker, it is important to get enough calcium (and vitamin D, which helps you absorb it) through diet or supplements.

“Caffeine and alcohol deplete magnesium in our bodies, and deficiencies can affect energy, sleep, regularity and migraine headaches.”

Careof vitamin sachet box for Apres Avant

The brand’s Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of leading doctors, scientists, and nutrition experts

Customers tell you what they’d like to get out of a supplement before Care/of customises a formulation. What do most of them unilaterally want besides being healthy?

So many people who take our quiz are looking to support energy levels. This is not too surprising, considering the non-stop lifestyles so many of us live these days. It can be difficult to maintain consistent energy levels to power through the day without crashing. The good news is that there are a lot of vitamin and herbal supplements to help support that goal, like vitamin B12 and rhodiola, an herbal supplement that Russian cosmonauts favoured to help support stamina and relieve stress.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about consumers from the responses given on Care/of’s online quiz?

One surprising thing we have noticed from the quiz is how many health goals people choose to focus on. People rarely just choose just one or two aspects of their health to improve. Instead, it seems like people taking our quiz are taking a balanced and multi-dimensional approach to their health. It is inspiring to see how the wellness movement is helping people get in tune with their bodies.

What are the key differences between isolated and complex vitamin compounds — where most vitamin supplements on the shelves are in the former form and Care/of’s are in the latter form — and how the body digests each?

Most vitamin supplements on the market are in ‘isolate’ form, which means the capsule contains only the isolated compound of the vitamin or mineral you are hoping to take. We ferment ours, because it makes our vitamins more closely resemble the vitamins you would get from real food. It also makes it easier to digest and easier for your body to absorb. You can also take them on an empty stomach without feeling discomfort.

“There are some supplements that we recommend quite often because they meet the needs for a lot of people. One example is vitamin D.”

Generally, most people know that they should be taking vitamins regularly. But many don’t because there often aren’t obvious health problems from a lack of. What is the direct link between consuming vitamins and preventing illnesses and diseases?

First and foremost, if you are having a health issue, you should consult your doctor. Also, if you are 100 per cent healthy and feeling great, you may still be missing some of the nutrients that your body needs for your best long-term health. The reality is that most people don’t get the daily recommended amount set by the FDA of most nutrients.

We see Care/of as a friendly guide to helping people achieve their health goals — short-term and long-term — and support healthy lifestyles; whatever that means for you.

What are the differences between consuming vitamins and minerals through powder versus capsules?

We find capsules to be more convenient than powders for some, but powders can be a great source of nutrients too. Some of the supplements we offer, like fish oil, are mainly offered in capsule form, so that’s one reason to keep some capsules in your health routine. 

Careof sachets and tablets for Apres Avant

Care/of’s promise to customers is “transparency on scientific research, product histories and sourcing”

What is a vegan capsule, and what impact does it have on the body versus non-vegan capsules?

It means that there are no animal products or by-products in the capsule — both in the exterior, and in the contents of the capsule. We have a number of vegan products, using vegan capsules, that are designed to support a healthy vegan lifestyle. There are many supplement products out there that have non-vegan components or are encapsulated by non-vegan capsules. If you are vegan, we’d caution you to avoid these.

Lastly, what does conscious living mean to you?

To us, conscious living means empowering people to find their path to personal health, whatever that journey might look like. That may mean something different for everyone, but no matter what the process should be simple, honest, and delightful — something that we try to incorporate into all aspects of our company.

Images courtesy of Care/of