Dr. Joseph Antoun of L-Nutra: “Listen to many, but finally follow your instinct and judgement”

Focus and hard work are in my opinion what separates the best from second best. I used to watch successful leaders and businessmen being asked about their secrets for success and I strongly believe that consistent focus and hard work is the most mentioned recipe. As a part of our series about business leaders who […]

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Focus and hard work are in my opinion what separates the best from second best. I used to watch successful leaders and businessmen being asked about their secrets for success and I strongly believe that consistent focus and hard work is the most mentioned recipe.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joseph Antoun.

Dr. Joseph Antoun is the CEO and Chairman of the Board of L-Nutra, a nutrition technology company dedicated to enhancing longevity and healthy aging. With decades of experience in the field, Dr. Antoun is passionate about nurturing a true healthcare system and increasing the human health span up to 100 years by raising awareness of lifestyle medicine which, at the core, is healthy nutrition.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you for taking the time. I began my career in medicine as a physician. I then realized that medicine’s primary intervention is pill based treatments that manage, but not treat, for most chronic diseases. I then turned to health policy and public health and developed a passion to change the current sick care management model to a healthcare model of keeping people healthy longer. The secret lies in enhancing “healthy aging.” Inspired by that discovery, I decided to shift my focus to support aging research though my work at Health Systems Reform, the Global Healthspan Policy Institute and The Buck Institute. Since then, I’ve dedicated my career to creating a market for healthy aging, which in turn allows regulators and investors to support scientific research to discover how to help people age gracefully and delay the onset of age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Since food is what we put in our body every day, 3 to 5 times per day, it is one of the most effective longevity medicines. Eating healthy every day is a widely agreed upon concept, but the reality is that most people have trouble sticking to it. The disruption that L-Nutra brought to the world is the use of cutting-edge science to develop effective nutritional solutions that can help us age healthy and become the cornerstone of longevity medicine. Our first major innovation is the Fasting Mimicking Diet® (FMD), a 5-day nutritional program that provides many of the benefits of fasting. L-Nutra is the first company in history to launch a novel market in nutrition called the ‘Fasting Market’ and commercialized in 2016, launched the innovative ‘Fasting with Food’ concept under the ProLon brand name. ProLon is the first nutrition program tested to nourish the body while providing many of the fasting benefits, but with food. “Fasting with Food” allows you to safely complete 5 days of fasting and induces a rejuvenation signal to the cells in your body, through a process called autophagy, which was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Soon after L-Nutra launched the Fasting Market, global awareness about fasting and its benefits exponentially increased and in 2020, Intermittent Fasting has become the #1 Diet in the U.S., based on the Health Survey of the International Food Information Council. Intermittent Fasting for 16–18h per day is now practiced by about 5–6% of the U.S. population. The main challenge with 16–18h water fasting is how to balance long hours of no-food that are needed for weight loss with the side effects of ‘starving’ essential organs like brain, heart, and others during these hours. L-Nutra has recently solved that puzzle by launching Fast Bar, a premium bar tested to nourish the body while maintaining and extending the fasting state.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was assuming that people will easily understand and accept the concept of fasting. Early on, we quickly learned that some partners were not familiar with fasting, which led to organizations questioning the legitimacy. I then would personally provide partners with scientific explanation on the science of nutrition and fasting to get back to business with us. What I learned from this experience is that what was perceived as an issue was actually an opportunity to get time with our partners to solidify our relationship and turn them into avid consumers. This is one way how ProLon sales grew in the U.S., through education.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Seeking advice from many great individuals and about as many topics as I could, is something that I learned early on in my career from Ronald Heifetz, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. My biggest mentor throughout my journey is my father, George Antoun. My father’s special skills and art was a lesson in how to reset the table for major success instead of accepting limited restricted choices presented to us in life or at work. He also helped me understand that everything in life runs via people so likability, trust and a smile can go very far and solve most problems. These words have helped me undertake a major objection back in 2016 when fasting was limited to few religious practices and was perceived otherwise as suffering and starvation. When I first joined L-Nutra as a CEO, I started calling some of the doctors I knew to tell them the amazing story of the benefits of fasting. On my first call, a doctor asked me ‘why would I starve my patients?’ It was clear at that time that the task was not only to launch ProLon, but to tell the world the new scientific discoveries around the benefits of fasting. As a small start up at that time with 12 employees, I needed to reset circumstances by creating a marketing plan that would create a major buzz about fasting. I therefore partnered with an organization that entertains the first ladies and top VIPs from around the world during the time Presidents are in session at UN National Assembly in NY. This partnership allowed us to launch ProLon and the Fasting Market at one of the most prestigious stages in NY with attendance of top global leaders and under the cameras of many top media, while the boards in Times Square were showcasing ProLon. This major launch and subsequent attention helped many of our stakeholders pay attention and ultimately become consumers and supporters of ours. The business had tripled in one year.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption should be the business of every leader because the first disruption we should do is to look inward into our own business and seek a better one. Disruption is evolution and is a sign of progress. So, it is positive in most cases. It is not so positive when it is used for wrong or selfish purposes or when it is representing a partial truth hiding a less bright full one. Unfortunately, we see this frequently in nutrition. Every few years there is a ‘novel dietary’ recommendation followed by a products and books to set a new trend. When this self-claimed disruption is not preceded with ethical science and multi-testing validation, it could harm millions of people around the world before experts catch up with proof that was not as great of a discovery as it was initially thought.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Focus and hard work are in my opinion what separates the best from second best. I used to watch successful leaders and businessmen being asked about their secrets for success and I strongly believe that consistent focus and hard work is the most mentioned recipe.

The second advice is to surround yourself with people that are better than you. This is key as you need humility to do so, you need to be a leader seeking the good from people and you also need to find and trust people that have special skills that you consider to be better than yours. A clear example was when I hired one of the top ecommerce experts in the U.S. to lead our digital team and started yielding double digit month to month growth during the pandemic.

The final advice is to listen to many, but finally follow your instinct and judgement. I use this advice mostly while hiring people. Hiring is probably one of the top 3 most important and most difficult aspect of any business. People are the best asset of a company, but it is difficult to figure out from interviewing whether a person is the right person or not as the answer is mostly not in the resume but in the character, heart, passion and sense of compassion of the interviewee.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

At L-Nutra, my journey had two parts: first, launch the concepts of fasting with food, at the core of nutrition as medicine, and that was achieved. My next step is even more crucial which is to shake up the current sick care system towards a lifestyle medicine one, in which most people stay healthy for long time. It is time to bring nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management and mindfulness/love to medicine. This is a major public policy challenge that I am happy to undertake.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I do not have one specific book or podcast that had a deep impact on my thinking, but I have many movie scenes and life experiences that mix the sense of compassion and change to the life of many with courage and love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The best life lesson quote is one word: LOVE. Loving and respecting thyself and others brings miracles and a happy life. It is the best medicine for longevity, problems and struggles.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

I have a saying: ‘if prayers are the healing of the soul, fasting is the healing of the body’. The movement that I’d like to bring to the world is to rebalance our lifestyles with fasting and eating periods, as excess food today is behind a lot of chronic diseases affecting many: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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