It was a desire to help friends that set Spencer Gordon down a multi-year path resulting in many enjoying healthier living – with the potential of improving the health of over a billion people globally.
The journey began in 2011 when the 22-year old was researching biochemistry at UC Berkeley. Both Spencer’s roommate and then-girlfriend were of Chinese descent and complained about suffering from the symptoms of alcohol flush reaction. Like 40% of East Asians who suffer from “Asian Glow”, they experienced uncomfortable facial flushing and redness after consuming just small amounts of alcohol. While some non-Asians also suffer from alcohol flush reaction, it is most prevalent among the Asian population.
As a molecular biologist, Spencer became very interested in the problem. When his roommate suggested Spencer should invent a solution, he decided he would try to help his friends. Spencer started by examining existing material about alcohol flush reaction. Quite a bit of research had been done on the problem and why it happens, but there was very little research on solutions.
“It was a combination of looking at pure theory and then looking at similar enzyme mutations,” says Spencer.
Alcohol flush reaction is caused by a genetic mutation, passed from parents to their children, which leads to an enzyme problem called ALDH2 Deficiency. People with ALDH2 Deficiency cannot process alcohol, and more specifically, a carcinogenic metabolite of alcohol called acetaldehyde, which has 30 times the toxicity of ethanol. Acetaldehyde is what causes hangovers when too much alcohol is consumed.
In addition to facial redness and heightened hangover symptoms, people with ALDH2 Deficiency suffer physical damage that is equally magnified, with increased risk of every kind of alcohol-associated disease, outside of addiction. Ironically, there is less prevalence of alcoholism across the East Asian population due to the uncomfortable physical symptoms experienced when drinking alcohol. However, managing ALDH2 Deficiency is not as simple as eliminating alcohol. Spencer’s research led him to a remarkable realization.
“I discovered ALDH2 Deficiency is a far more serious health issue than just turning red when drinking. It’s really a sign of other damage going on inside the body and that something is not right,” says Spencer. “Alcohol flush reaction is much more than an inconvenient cosmetic problem.”
People with ALDH2 Deficiency have up to 70 times greater risk of esophageal cancer, three times greater risk of liver cirrhosis, two times the risk of developing osteoporosis, and one and a half times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. And acetaldehyde, the metabolite that drives this damage within the body, is in more than just alcohol. It is also found in cigarette smoke, smog, coffee, and many common foods. Acetaldehyde is everywhere and puts people with ALDH2 Deficiency at constant risk, even if they never drink.
“It was the long-term health concerns that spurred me to look for some kind of solution, or at least mitigation of the problem,” says Spencer.
Spencer was no longer just looking for a way to reduce facial redness: he was looking for a way to significantly protect health and longevity for anyone with ALDH2 Deficiency. And he found it.
Developing Essential AD2
As Spencer worked on developing Essential AD2—his solution to managing ALDH2 Deficiency—he drew the attention and advisory support of Dr. Ken Fujioka, an expert in human metabolism and nutrition at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, where Spencer worked writing clinical trial protocols. Recognizing the importance of building trust with consumers, Spencer raised investor funds to conduct an independent double-blind, placebo-controlled, human clinical trial. The clinical trial was successful and Essential AD2 is the first product clinically demonstrated to reduce acetaldehyde concentration in the blood. After the clinical trial, Spencer was ready to take Essential AD2 to the next level.
“We had modest growth, but we didn’t have tons of money to do any marketing. Basically it was word-of-mouth marketing,” says Spencer. “But the customers we had were very loyal. They loved the product and purchased it all the time.”
Spencer says the positive reviews and personal success stories about how the product has improved lives have been very encouraging.
“It’s certainly been the most rewarding part,” says Spencer. “But I have a science background. This is my first business, and I was a solo founder without a lot of help. My next stage was to figure out how to grow the business.”
In January 2015, Spencer met Victor Saldamando.
“I meet a lot of different people with a lot of different ideas. Some are great. Some are good. Some are not so good,” says Victor. “But with Spencer, the whole story and mission is great.”
Victor describes Spencer as very intelligent, with great drive and a great heart.
“I knew Spencer would be successful because he thinks down the line to the next steps and makes smart choices, because he wants the product to be the best it can be,” says Victor.
As an example, Victor points out that paying for a clinical trial for a dietary supplement is highly unusual—something no one else in this market had ever done, and it demonstrates Spencer’s tremendous integrity and accountability. He proved Essential AD2 isn’t a placebo.
“Spencer has proven Essential AD2 works,” says Victor. “His mind works not only as a molecular biologist, but also as a good entrepreneur who wants to bring innovation forward that benefits the community.”
Building the Delta Nutrassentials Team
Spencer’s ingenuity combined with Victor’s business knowledge and experience were a perfect fit to take the company, Delta Nutrassentials, to the next level. The two brought on an additional scientific advisor, Dr. Helen Hu, who holds a medical degree, as well as a doctorate and medical degree in traditional Chinese medicine. Victor also helped Spencer to raise additional investor funds to market the product to a wider audience.
One of the investors was Amy Chang, whom Victor had met earlier in the year. As it turns out, Amy has ALDH2 Deficiency. She found the product and genetic health condition personally interesting and right away she began taking Essential AD2 daily. Coincidentally, Amy was looking to make her next career move after having spent over two decades in the corporate world. Spencer and Victor jumped on the chance to bring her onto the management team, and Amy joined Delta Nutrassentials soon after as CEO.
“I am extremely passionate about spreading awareness of ALDH2 Deficiency. Both of my parents, sister and brother-in-law all have it. And there is a 75% chance my little niece has it too, but she is too young to try alcohol. Like a billion people globally, we are at higher risk of developing long term health conditions because of our ALDH2 Deficiency.”
Another reason for Amy’s interest was because Spencer had gone the extra mile to prove Essential AD2’s efficacy through a clinical trial, which gave her confidence she would be backing a product that could truly make a difference in people’s health. Amy also enjoys working with the Delta Nutrassentials team.
“Spencer is one of the most self-motivated entrepreneurs that I’ve ever met. He’s also just an extremely nice person. He’s a great problem solver, and he likes to fix people’s problems. He’s naturally talented in that way.” added Amy.
ALDH2 Deficiency is not a commonly known condition. However, the word is getting out there, and demand for Essential AD2 is growing.
“We have customers all over the world,” says Amy. “It’s really interesting how even though, right now, we’re just mainly marketing in the United States, people from all over the world have been purchasing the product.”
And for Spencer, the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing Essential AD2 is helping to protect the health of so many people, especially his friends.