Late last year, the health-care start-up Viome raised $15 million in venture-capital funding for at-home fecal test kits. You send in a very small package of your own poop, and the company tells you what’s happening in your gut so that you can recalibrate your diet to, among other things, lose weight and keep it off. In the company’s words, subscribers get the opportunity to explore and improve their own microbiome: Viome “uses state-of-the-art proprietary technology” to create “unique molecular profiles” for those who purchase and submit a kit.
This language says a lot about how Viome and an ever-increasing number of new health companies are encouraging people to think and talk about nutrition: as a problem of personal technology, where losing weight isn’t an experience of self-deprivation, but one of optimization, not unlike increasing a year-old iPhone’s battery life or building a car that runs without gas.
Viome and other start-ups in its market don’t characterize themselves as diet companies, but weight and other nutrition-adjacent health concerns are the chief things around which many of them are oriented. 23andMe wants to help you eat and exercise according to your genetics. Bulletproof wants you to change your morning coffee routine to increase your work performance and reduce hunger. Habit promises to study your personal biomarkers to tailor a nutrition plan just for you. Need a few hours of supposedly superhuman mental acuity and calorie burning? Pound a ketone cocktail and keep it moving. Can you control your body’s need for fuel through “intermittent fasting”? There’s an app for that.