Embracing and marketing the science of wellbeing
Stephanie Blum: Nestlé Health Science
The science and marketing sectors don’t often intersect. But when clinically validated advancements emerge from the laboratory, this unlikely alliance comes into play. In this LLAMA podcast episode we explore how cutting edge research can be applied to our everyday health and longevity. Dr. Stephanie Blum, Head of Translational Science at Nestlé Health Science, is responsible for transforming scientific discoveries to innovative product. In partnership with the Swiss life science company, Amazentis, her work involves identifying how Amazentis’ mitochondrial research and clinical trial data can be leveraged for novel nutrition products with proven health benefits.
Dr. Blum received her PhD in pharmacology and immunology. She developed a passion for immunology after gaining a complex understanding of how a person’s immune system can critically affect their health. In this interview with Peter Bowes, Dr. Blum discusses the intricacies involved with marketing a science-focused nutrition product. She also reflects on the ways people have changed their health habits in the face of a world-wide pandemic and the steps we could take to increase our immune health, as we age.
This episode was produced in association with the Swiss life science company, Amazentis, which is pioneering cutting edge, clinically validated cellular nutrition, under its Timeline brand.
Published: September 21, 2020 – 3.09PM PT
Recorded: August 12, 2020
NOTES & QUOTES
In this interview, we cover:
- Striking a balance between exploring exciting research and actually producing a nutritional supplement that consumers will trust.
- How a healthy immune system could better-position you to fight off infections.
- With the COVID pandemic, how a well-functioning immune system is the foundation to defend against a viral or bacterial infection.”
- Dr. Blum’s conviction that we can proactively contribute to manage our health, and not to wait until medication of an illness is needed
- Which kind of health supplements consumers have intensively purchased during the COVID-19 outbreak and how the pandemic has changed their outlook on every-day health habits.
“This is the moment where people get … more responsible for themselves, but also for others around – neighbors, family members – and they get more aware. And they also see that as an opportunity. What can I do for myself, for my health?
- Why obesity is a risk factor in COVID-19 infection.
- What simple thing you can do every day to better strengthen yourself against infections and other illnesses.
- Why your body accumulates “cellular waste” as you age, and what this means for your health.
- How offering people a choice in the physical form of a nutritional supplement can make all the difference when it comes to buying into the product and being able to stick with it.
- The quality that makes you an excellent leader, according to Dr. Blum
“You can only be good or excellent if you have passion. I’m convinced by that. […] You really need fascination. And then the willingness really to take one obstacle and one challenge after the other. You have to believe in what you do. “
- The advice Dr. Blum has for rising female leaders and the steps she takes in her personal life to ensure a healthy life style.
“I encourage the next-generation female leaders to speak up, to stand in the wind, and to [have] courage to take it through.”
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Dr. Stephanie Blum: There was a recent questionnaire in the United States with people being overweight and going up to a certain age and what they really want in life and how they define wellness is really, “I can move. I can move with others. I can be part of something. And I’m not tired.”
Peter Bowes: Hello again, and welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. I’m Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity. This episode is brought to you in association with Amazentis, a Swiss life science company that’s pioneering cutting edge, clinically-validated cellular nutrition under its “Timeline” brand. Now, just over a year ago, Amazentis teamed up with Nestlé Health Science to carry out joint research into mitochondrial health. It’s a subject we’ve delved into in some depth during recent episodes. And today we’re going to hear more about it from the perspective of the research wing of a company that you may know better as the maker of chocolate bars. We’ll try to join the dots. We’re going to meet Dr. Stephanie Blum, Head of Translational Research at Nestlé Health Science, where she’s worked as an immunologist for much of the past decade on projects as diverse as pediatric allergies, gastrointestinal health, aging and therapeutic enzyme therapies. Dr. Blum, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Good afternoon.
Peter Bowes: It’s very good to talk to you. You say good afternoon because you’re in Switzerland right now. I’m on the west coast of America, we’re in entirely different time zones. But it is good to link up with you. And of course, we are doing this remotely. We’re living through this pandemic as well. And maybe we will talk about Coronavirus in a few moments. But, I want to start with my reference just now to chocolate, because I’m sure many people listening to this will associate Nestlé with sweets or candy, as they say here in the United States. Nestlé Health Science doesn’t make chocolates. It’s an entirely different part of the organization involved in nutritional science research. Can you tell me more about what you do?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. So Nestlé Health Science is a part of the the bigger Nestlé group, but our focus is really on the preservation of health and also to provide or to design products designated for patients who are in clinical nutrition, being it inside the hospital or outside the hospital. We also have a huge development and business in healthy aging. And so we are caring very much about new trends in longevity.
Peter Bowes: What exactly does your role entail?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Basically, my role is to see where is the scientific innovation. And the thing is that it’s very, always very early. So you get a reaction on a cell or you get a result from an animal model and then to say, OK, this may be promising to put it into a human and see if this works also in human. And then bring it into the business. And it has then to fit our strategy, of course, and it has to be actionable. That that means I cannot bring something in where I fell in love as a scientist. But it brings us up to 20 years to show a benefit. So this is this critical professional experience you need in translational research to identify suggested, bring it in, get exposed to a lot of challenges or which is correct? Beyond the science, can I sell it or can I produce it? Can I taste it? Right. Because fancy ingredients most of the time are very bitter and not food-like. So these are a lot of aspects we have to to put in front of our self and have a critical assessment. What to do? And this is not only the scientist or the clinician in the company, this is also the marketeers, or the people who produce the product in our product technology centers. These kind of things. Which makes it very difficult, but also very interesting, because you never walk alone or you have always cross-functional teams being inside the company, being with external partners to try to make the right thing. The challenge we have is, especially in nutrition, that everything we like to see in the scientific discoveries, in papers, in animal models by nature is not easily transferable into human, right? Because we are all different. We have different genetics. We have different microbiomes, coming back to that. And we eat differently, we live differently. So we cannot straight ahead say it works and the mouse, it will work in you and me. And this is the challenge we have. To put it into something where we have a product at the end of the day, right?
Peter Bowes: Yeah, this is the challenge, isn’t it? And what you’re essentially doing, is you are joining those dots. And it does highlight, doesn’t it, the importance of collaborations?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yes. Yeah. Because really, you cannot walk alone in that. Because a scientist is always biased to the results. Right? The more fancy the pathways are, the molecular targets are, we all get excited. But we have to bring it back into reality and into feasibility. And, by the end of the day, does the consumer eat it? Right. So, because we have, we are, we cannot inject, we are orally depending. So, we have to make a kind of food out of it. Palatability, digestibility. You don’t want to get diarrhea from the new compounds. You want, that everything gets, or most of it gets absorbed in your body. And it’s not just going through the digestive system. All these kind of aspects have to be worked on. And there you need these different aspects and also the different expertise around that opportunity, I would say.
Peter Bowes: And, when we talk about nutritional science, I think as we grow and as the understanding of diet and foods spreads, we are beginning to clearly realize that there is a very strong correlation between nutrition and our everyday health, and, perhaps even, those foods that we eat more for pleasure than we associate with good health. So, can you maybe explain to us how important it is to consider what we eat as almost a form of medication?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, I think we get into the awareness of food if we eat too much food. Think about the obesity and the increasing number of people with Type 2 diabetes, which is really linked to over-nutrition. Right? Or we think of nutrition if we have to go on a diet. But, what is coming more and more into the awareness of the consumer is really, that our basic food have components which are contributing to health. And it’s not only calories or proteins, it’s also these are plant-based, secondary ingredients which confer health. And the Amazentis ingredient is one example. Maybe we touch more base onto that in the coming minutes. But I think the awareness that a balanced diet but also increasing your exercise and moving around is already something everyone across every ages can contribute to have a good health status. And I think this is generally related to wellness, to quality of life, and also to awareness of, “I have to eat,not only meat, I have to eat vegetables and fruits.” And having, like our grandmothers and grandfathers, have a balanced diet, which is really constitutive for anybody’s health.
Peter Bowes: Well, I would indeed like to talk in much more detail about that. Before we do, Nestlé Health Science has, just give me an idea of the reach of the organization. I think you have a presence in more than 60 countries around the world.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, we have a presence, a global presence, and normally what we do, we we adapt our products also to local, of course needs. But also, what people, and preferences, what people like to eat. So they are still food products. So, we also do not want to neglect the pleasure of eating, even if some of our foods are enriched in so-called by your active ingredients or health conferring parts of the nutrition. So this is something we really are vigilant about, to have a portfolio. Not only one product, but also have a variety of healthy offerings. And that can be in the consumer space, so that you can buy that either in the grocery store or in pharmacies, but also having the same adapted one in hospitals.
Peter Bowes: And of course, that must have to take into account the extraordinary diversity between nations in terms of the wealth of nations, the wealth of people, and that is probably the primary dictator in terms of what people actually eat, is what they can afford to eat.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. The affordability, of course, plays an important role. But also the education on simple things, which are affordable. For example, the normal diet you have enriched in fresh things is affordable for a lot of people. It’s not that you have to use very highly-designed or enriched foods only. You can have supplements to your diets in terms of different formats. It can be pills it can can be sachets, or you sprinkle over your daily food to enrich in certain things. So there is of course, a notion of “Can I afford it on a daily basis?” But we always look at these kind of cost determinants that it becomes to a broader base, affordable for many people. But also, we have to think that we have to invest in R&D also to deliver the science and sometimes also clinical trials. So, there will also be some products with a premium check. Right.
Peter Bowes: Again, we’ll dive a little bit more into that. I wanted to talk about you and your role with the organization. You, I mentioned you’ve been with Nestlé Health Science for about a decade now. Your background is in biochemistry and pharmacology. That’s what you read at university and got your PhD in.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, that’s correct. And then I started to specialize in immunology because I thought a functioning immune system across all age is also something very important contributing to health. Right? We see it now with the COVID pandemic, that a good-functioning immune system is something you can start with to combat an infection, a viral infection or bacterial infection. Even so, in the context that you might not have a treatment at hand. Right? Which is basically totally new for us, again, because we are used to having treatments available. Right. So this is something I got really interested in. It’s very complex, but I thought I would dedicate my scientific career and life to that. And joining Nestlé, and I did that more than 10 years ago, actually 20 years ago. Being in research first was really that notion of “What can I do with my daily life, being not forced to take any drugs, to contribute to health and contribute to a proper immune system, but also other proper cellular functions?” Right. Which is very important to maintain health and have a health management instead of a disease management. Right?
Peter Bowes: And, you mentioned COVID-19 – the current crisis that we’re all trying to figure out. We’re trying to get through these extremely difficult times. Where are you at the moment, in Switzerland? I know a lot of European countries have seen a bit of an uptake in the number of cases and infections in recent weeks. Here in the United States, it’s still an extremely difficult issue, especially in the southern part of the country. But where are you in Switzerland?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Well, of course, with the, after the real confinement, when people started to go out again and to meet or controlled-wise, but still meet people. Go on holidays, coming back from holidays. Of course, numbers are increasing, but it’s still on a controlled basis. What Switzerland did was really to leave it on the on the regional governmental decision to introduce regulatory measurements, like wearing a mask in public places. And if you go your grocery shopping. So this is in place again. I think what we all learned is that there will be severe cases and we have to make sure that enough places in the intensive care units are available. Once you have this and the health system is not overwhelmed with these severe cases. But, I think as we learn, as every country in the world, learning by doing, is that we watched the numbers tests are available and then quick reactions on what you have to do to go back with the infection rates per day. Because what we see is infection rates. It’s not death rates. Right? So there is an awareness. And I think also the people get aware of this is not something light to handle. You never know how it will go out for you with a certain age.
Peter Bowes: So, as an immunologist, what have you learned during this pandemic? I think for ordinary people for lay people, a realization that our everyday health is perhaps even more important than we perhaps once thought. And that is that if we are in good health, physically and mentally, we are probably better able to withstand this virus.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. So what we observed is that during, without any any education campaign, sales in vitamin C, vitamin D, micronutrient supplements went through the roof. Right? So, people have enough knowledge to see what can I do immediately for myself in this time of there’s a pandemic and there’s nothing which can help me. Right? So, again, this is the moment where people get responsible, more responsible for themselves, but also for others around neighbors, family members, and they get more aware. And they also see that as an opportunity. What can I do for myself, for my health? And the first thing which comes across, which what I can do every day, is have good nutrition, have good foods, have fresh foods, have variety of foods. Right? And then supplemented with things which can help, which are nature’s little helper to make you confer a better health status. Right?
Peter Bowes: I know in the UK there’s a big push against obesity with the British government as well. Again, there’s been a realization that obesity is clearly a major negative factor. If you are unlucky enough to be to contract the virus, that you stand a much worse chance of beating it or perhaps a much slower recovery if you are overweight.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: That is correct. And that is linked to the fact that if you are obese, you have a higher level of, let’s say, inflammation going on in your body without having an overt inflammation. But this is something which is prodeling in you and then if you get a challenge, you have much more risk not to respond adequately. So, I think if we can get people to move around, right? Nobody has to become an athlete all of a sudden. But to move more around and have a good nutrition, it’s already a good basis for health, improved health. Right?
Peter Bowes: And this is a challenge, isn’t it? And I think you mentioned, education. It is really going forward. It is all about education and getting that message that you just articulated through to people and getting it to stick and not just to stick for for six months, but to stick throughout people’s lives. And I know there is a tendency for some people, it’s like people are trying to lose weight and maybe it goes well for the first three months. Then people then go back into their old lifestyle. And, I guess for a lot of people, in your profession that this is the challenge, to make that message, that healthy living message, a permanent one.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. And, but what I think is if, by experience, if people lose weight, they get more energetic, they get more energy to move. They have pleasure. They don’t feel intimidated by their body because everyone gets the feedback. This is not what you should look like. Right? There was a recent questionnaire in the United States with people being overweight and going up to a certain age and what they really want in life. And how define wellness is really I can move. I can move with others. I can be part of something. And I’m not tired. And this energy, this is an experience you can feel, right? It’s not if you feel this, then you get a different motivation. I think this is also what sticks you, basically down to really change lifestyle. Right? Because that’s what’s needed. You have to change your lifestyle, which is not always easy on the long term, as you said. But I think if you feel this boost of energy and you you have an idea of “How can I escape escape this vicious cycle?” Then it is rewarding for you and you will go on with that, right?
Peter Bowes: Yeah. And I don’t know that it’s a good analogy, or not. But I suppose you could compare that to the boost in energy that you get through through having a healthier diet and certainly increasing the amount of exercise you do. You could say in a way it is like a drug. It’s like a a boost of caffeine to just inject yourself with some life. But of course, you’re not using a drug. You can do these things very simply through thinking of your food. If you want to think it as a drug or those plant foods as essentially being drugs, that will give you a very cheap and easy boost and make you feel much better.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Absolutely. And by and by the way, you can enhance this effect by nutritional supplements. Again, we come to the Amazentis one, where you have a naturally-derived compound, which is put in the form for you, that everyone can use it, because you don’t need any conversion or transformation in your body. And then just gives you this extra boost. And it’s not only that, it’s kind of marketing, like that’s the next generation of coffee. And it is really shown in in scientific experiments and also in clinical that it will give you more energy because you it will help you to get rid of the cellular waste. Right? So people can understand that you can transform that to a message, that everyone can understand that. And then if people feel it, they will not feel it after one or two days, but they will feel it after some weeks, that something is changing with their body and with their motivation. Right? Energy is also a lot about “Do I have enough energy to motivate myself to get up in front of the television and go out and do something? And then you have the pleasure. And that’s a nice experience. It’s a rewarding experience. But you need this, overcome this first threshold, right? To get up out of your seat.
Peter Bowes: So you mentioned the work that Amazentis are doing. And maybe it’s a good point now to get into that in a little bit more depth and talk about the extremely pure form of Urolithin-A, which is the compound that you referred to. But before we do that, maybe just talk about why Nestlé, Health, Science and Amazentis decided to team up with this kind of research. Where is the synergy here?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: I think the synergies in the the common vision, that you can have food-derived compounds enhancing a biological benefit. This is where the company visions cross. And what Amazentis did very nicely is that they investigated a fruit for a certain component, which is known, and we call it polyphenols. It’s very chemical, and then they made the observation really step by step. So there is a tradition that if people, for example, in Turkey, they eat a lot of pomegranate because that Urolithin A is coming from that fruit and it is in there, in there let’s say, you know, history’s already demonstrated that it confers benefits in elderly. So. Right. And, now they look into with the new tools of biochemistry, pharmacology and clinical assessments, they look which part of this fruit is responsible for certain benefits? And they come to a class of chemicals which we call polyphenols. And then they say, OK, they made the observation that in some people, if they give this extract, it will have a benefit and others not. So they come to that conclusion that not everyone can confer or convert this active principle into something which acts in the body. And they come to the conclusion it’s depending on the bacteria you have in your gut. So, you have people who can use it and others who cannot use it. So what do they do? They synthesize the active form. So then you wipe out that influence of your microbiome and then everyone can use it, all of a sudden. And then they start to look into where’s the benefit? And they focus very much on the mobility. So the impact on the muscle. But they also are really very, very deep into the mechanism of action and say, and find that this molecule will help to clean cellular waste, which is accumulating as you age because your repair systems are not working optimally. So this is a common thing, not only in a muscle cell, it will also work in the same time in a brain cell or in the heart muscle cell. So this is a unique, what we call a “mode of action.” And then after several studies, also always going back into animal models to see how does the thing work, and go back and forward into human clinical trials. They show that, indeed, it will also work in humans. Right? And it will work, it will help them to make the muscles more energetic. So by the end of the day, you are better in moving, you’re better in walking distance and elderly, these kind of things. Very relevant and easy to understand for everyone who has problems to get up off the chair.
Peter Bowes: I don’t think there’s a single human being who cannot appreciate that.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Exactly.
Peter Bowes: I think, everyone, as you grow older, understands what it’s like to be maybe losing your balance a little bit, to be a little bit frail. Maybe not completely unable to walk, but just not as good as you were 20 or 30 years ago.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Exactly. Or you take a lot and you’re tired after some some steps. And I think everyone either knows someone in his surroundings who has that or can project himself in 20, 25 years to have the same problems because that’s natural decline in age. Right. So, I think that is the fascinating story about Amazentis, they really went from A to Z.
Peter Bowes: And so this is a research partnership. And as you say, we’re moving forward. This isn’t complete. And with science, with an ending, it is continuous and growing science. And the key role now for people like yourself is to look at the effect of this compound, this pure form of your Urolithin A might appear, as it is known from Amazentis, how it will affect humans. Not just in the next few months, but in terms of long-term studies moving forward over a period of time.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, so as I said as this, the way that Urolithin A is acting on cells, helping them to get rid of waste, we will also look at other tissues and other functions. Right? We are pretty sure about the muscle and mobility, but we don’t know anything about does it help in cognition? Does it help in liver health? Or so we are walking around, if you want, in the body to see are there other benefits where this mode of action plays a role? And are we also looking at immune stimulation, for example. We know in the elderly, for example, the immune function, again, is not optimal, because we age. Right? So we are looking also at that aspect. We see something, we have now the compound we can give it is safe. So we can work really in different, what we call areas of interest to see if there is a benefit or not. So I think this is the beauty of having this at hand and all in sense are really coming from food if you think it through. Right? So very natural. And you can, you don’t need to eat kilograms of pomegranate. Nobody will do that every day. Right? But you can have this condensed form and this is the beauty of it and you can include it in your normal diet.
Peter Bowes: And, you mentioned food. I think one of the the key aspirations of Amazentis, is that people will will see this as a food and that might a pure Urolithin A and its pure form won’t necessarily be available as a tablet, as a pill for people to take. It will be part of perhaps a shake or something that you can have with your fruit in the morning. It is part of your daily meal plan as opposed to a traditional pill, which I think for some people is a turn off, just the thought of taking tablets. But if it is in a food form, perhaps it’s more palatable for people.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. And you have different possibilities of consumption. You can sprinkle it really over your breakfast or you can have it as a drink, you can have it in a yogurt or you can have it in a pill. But you know, you can choose and choice is important. Choice is important for adherence to something. Right? If I’m forced to take three or four pills every day in addition to everything else, I may have to take in forms of medication. No, why would I do that? But if I have the choice, I can do on Tuesday this and on Thursday that, that’s perfect.
Peter Bowes: And, to be realistic about this, you say it is safe. Urolithin A, it is a natural compound. It is it originates from from fruits. It is safe. However, there are still question marks and this is why science is constantly evolving. But question marks over the long-term implications and as well as looking for the positive effects on the human body, different organs in the body, you will be looking for potential negative effects as well.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Well, I think the studies have already looked at the safety aspect. And then for bringing it to the market, even a food component has to have some safety dosage. So it has to have, undergo some regulatory stringencies, so that is ticked off, so that was studied. On the long term, normally, what you do not do with food is, you cannot overdose it. Right? And so that is the good. And the risk to benefit ratio is very good in a food-derived compound. It is compared to a drug, it is much weaker on the immediate effect, right? But it, on the long term, it confers a better benefit risk ratio. So basically, you cannot poison yourself. And I think if it’s out in the market, there will be studies, post-launch studies ongoing to see if there is anything coming up as a long term. But basically what you do with nutritional compounds, you excrete them. If they are too much, you excrete them.
Peter Bowes: And in terms of people’s attitudes towards taking supplementation, nutritional supplements, I think people come in different categories. There are those who believe, like I do, that it is increasingly believed that it is an insurance policy to guard against what we’re not getting from our otherwise normal, normal-ish diets. And, to be honest, none of us are eating the perfect diet all of the time. And as you say, we don’t all have the same microbiome in our guts and we can’t all benefit in the same way from the natural products that come from fruits. So it is in terms of our diet, it is an insurance policy to doubly-make sure, if you like, that we’re getting enough of what we need. Others tend to be more negative, I think, towards supplementation, saying that, well, if I can’t get it from my general diet, from my natural foods, there’s a certain question mark over it. There’s a certain resistance to taking supplements and perhaps not least because of the cost of supplements.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, that might be. But again, if you feel the benefit and I think you will overcome that. Of course, you can say so what should I take? Vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E and fish oil. And Urolithin A, you have to make your choices, right? But again, if you feel the benefit, then you will stick to it, I’m convinced.
Peter Bowes: I tend to agree with you, but you actually just encapsulated the, I think what the issue is. That, increasingly there seem to be presented to people, so many choices – vitamin C, the fish oil, the Urolithin A. And for the layperson, that the real challenge is to make that decision as to what is good for me. Because very often it’s very difficult, maybe from your personal doctor, your personal physician, who doesn’t necessarily have all the answers. It’s difficult for ordinary people to make those crucial decisions as to what they spend their money on.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we need some some proper education and guidance there, which we, as companies have, and also experts in the field have to give. But again, the choice is also where’s my biggest pain, pain point. Right? If I’m highly inflamed, maybe then I want to have some fish oil in addition to that. But if I have overweight and I want to increase my, let’s say, my daily activity index or something, then I would go for something else. I think there’s also an opportunity, for me it’s always good to have a choice. Right? And if you can combine it with the right information behind it, which I agree, in nutrition is often either controversial or there’s a lot of good things to do, to eat, right? That’s is why people take multivitamins. Then you have it in one pill, right? If it helps or not. But then, it’s done, right? I think more we get education about the value of nutrition, the more people will have all the understanding to do their choices.
Peter Bowes: I think that is absolutely the crucial point, because I think what we’re asking people a lot of the times to do now is self educate on these issues. And as you say, to identify your own frailties or your own problems and issues that could benefit from a supplementation or a change of diet. But then we’re not necessarily the best people to make those decisions, because we don’t have the education and the scientific background. Let’s just change tack. You and I are talking mid-August, actually on the day here in the United States when Joe Biden is introducing to the world Kamala Harris, his running mate for the election in a couple of months time. And she is a potential female leader, political leader of years to come. And I’m wondering as a female scientist leading an organization, what role you think you play in terms of encouraging new generations of scientists and especially women scientists?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Well, I hope I will, I’m an inspiring leader. So that means that I share my values and I share the company and my vision. And that I have empathy and leave room for creativity and make sure that female, but also male talents are promoted and to get the right recognition. Right? And I think this is important being male or female. As leaders, we have to see what is best for the company. How can we share the vision and how can we motivate others to buy into our vision? Because you can only be good or excellent if you if you have passion. I’m convinced by that. If you do a day-to-day job, you go home by 4. That’s not what you need in that context. You really need fascination. And then the willingness really to to take one obstacle and one challenge after the other. You have to believe in what you do. And I think this is something I strongly confer every day, and also encourage the next-generation female leaders to speak up, to stand in the wind, and to take courage to take it through. And nobody has to do it alone. That’s the good learning, if you do it. You can have others helping there and have a great team. So I’m a big believer in team team efforts.
Peter Bowes: And does the world have science, the world that you operate in, does it nurture female talent in the way that you would like to see it?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yes.
Peter Bowes: As well as it could?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. The whole diversity discussion and gender balance, I think, with my experience in Nestle, I had never disadvantage being a woman. I think you have to convince by your experience, by your personality and some people or leaders and others are not. That doesn’t mean they will not contribute less to the company’s goals. I think this is the beauty of yeah, of my professional life. I would not say now with a diversity clause, I could make it to get recognized.
Peter Bowes: I ask that question, in part because hosting this podcast, I am offered interviews with scientists around the world from different organizations. And I notice that, overwhelmingly, I am being offered male scientists to talk on different topics in the area of longevity. And I try, whenever possible, to strike that gender balance. But that does, from my perspective, maybe from a media perspective, that does seem to be still a bias towards those older male scientists. You don’t see the diversity that you would like to see sometimes.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: No, and I think it’s related to the fact that, already, you have a gender bias in this kind of study fields in biochemistry, engineering, mathematics. You have less women. And then, not everyone has the persistence to go through all the steps. And and I also have to say, I have a husband who is making it possible that we have a dual career. So I do not have to negotiate to go to work or something that was always normal. But a lot of the female talents get lost on the way to career. And then, basically you see at the end of a way, that female leaders are spares, and there is something which has to change, of course. But I think also now the society recognizes that it’s also rewarding for the for the males to have the chance to be in a family environment. Right? Because there’s also the other side that people are forced to take the advancing role and they cannot care for the family. So if it’s more equalized than you, I hope you will see more women in leading positions.
Peter Bowes: Yeah, exactly. Let me ask you, with your breadth of experience in science and specifically the work that you do and the subjects that we’ve been talking about in this podcast. What have you learned through your own studies that you apply, you could say perhaps to your own life on a daily basis with your own health and and longevity in mind? Is there something that comes to mind that you do because you thoroughly understand it and believe it to be good for you?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah, basically what I always did or I always focused very much on non-processed food and having a lot of fruits and vegetables, and then do a lot of sports. So I think there is already some kind of healthy basis. And then by my work, I do in a food company, I also see the possibilities of food. And I learned a lot during that time. I mean, I’m a classical biochemist and then immunologist, they don’t know anything about nutrition. So I had a big learning in my professional time in Nestle, too. To learn on food components and how good they are and also how you can reinforce your your daily food, but basically for longevity. I think what is important is really and this is, again, not only for me, but for everyone, be able to move and be able to have your common sense together. So cognition plays a role. And having energy to be part of something. I think this is, we are social animals. So this is, someone does not want to stay at home alone because he can, is too weak to get out of the chair. So, I think this is overall human behavior and I’m not an exception to that.
Peter Bowes: And that actually brings us full-circle to the current crisis that we’re facing, that so many people are staying at home and so many people are alone at the moment, which long-term, tragically, I think is going to cause us some more problems.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah.
Peter Bowes: And, just a final question. I often ask this question of the experts, many experts I speak to around the world. In terms of longevity, because the aspiration of this podcast or the theme of the podcast is aiming for a good healthspan as opposed to lifespan, the number of years that we’re healthy and vital and agile and involved in in life and society. That is what the goal is, not necessarily to live to be 120 or 130, though that may happen one day. In terms of your own healthspan, is there something you focus on in terms of how you would like to be when you get to be a very old person? Do you have an image of the kind of life that you would like to be living?
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Yeah. So if I project myself in very old, I would still like to be able to do some sport and be really intellectually capable of reading, of really participating, being with others, exchanging things – traveling, for example. So all these kind of things, I would, accept maybe, sorry, that it slows down in speed. But that I’m still able to do this and have a social life being able to read still a scientific review article (laughs) or something.
Peter Bowes: That sounds like a very good aspiration.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: That sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
Peter Bowes: It sounds like a great plan. Yes. And I wish you all the luck in the world with it. Stephanie Blum, great to talk to you. Thank you very much, indeed.
Dr. Stephanie Blum: Thank you. Bye.
Peter Bowes: And as ever, if you’d like to dig a little deeper into the topics that we’ve discussed today, I’ll put some links into the show notes for this episode. You’ll find them at the Live Long and Master Aging website LLAMApodcast.com, that’s LLAMApodcast.com. The LLAMA Podcast is a Healthspan Media production.
This episode was brought to you in association with Amazentis, a Swiss Life Science company that’s pioneering, cutting-edge, clinically-validated cellular nutrition under its “Timeline” brand.
And if you enjoy what we do, you can rate and review us at Apple podcast, you can follow us in social media at LLAMA Podcast and direct message me @ Peter Bowes. It’s always good to hear from you. Many thanks for listening.