(Photo: Shashi Marulappa)
By Daniel Langhorne, California Business Journal.
When Shashi Marulappa was looking for a solution to the obesity epidemic affecting more than 37 percent of American adults, he happened to come across an article in the scientific journal, Nature, about the molecule Oleoylethanolamide, which is a metabolite that naturally occurs in the small intestine.
Also known as OEA, this molecule tells a person’s brain that his or her stomach is full and that they can stop eating. “It’s nature’s way of telling you that you are full,” he says.
The Nature article discussed how the oleic acid found in olive oil is converted into OEA when it reaches the small intestine. Marulappa was intrigued by whether this same process could be developed into a dietary supplement that could help people lose weight.
His curiosity paved the way for his partnership with Dr. Jay Yepuri, a gastroenterologist, to develop RiduZone, an FDA acknowledged supplement of OEA that is sold by their Dallas-based company, NutriForward.
Marulappa and Yepuri met while attending a business networking conference. Marulappa shared his thoughts on how OEA could be harnessed to help people lose weight. The two entrepreneurs found the biomedical technology through studies of OEA done at the University of California, Irvine.
NutriForward developed the manufacturing processes needed to develop the new groundbreaking product, conducted a clinical trial and submitted a New Dietary Ingredient Notification to the FDA. The company then received an acknowledgement from the FDA to market RiduZone as a dietary supplement to support a healthy weight, appetite and body fat metabolism.
It took them two and a half years to develop RiduZone.
“We work well together because I have a background in biomedical research and technology commercialization,” Marulappa says. “Meanwhile, Jay is a trained physician who is highly experienced in weight management and clinical trials.”
The combination was a perfect mix to create a revolutionary product.
Marulappa, a Veterinarian by training, had a good idea of what he wanted to do when he graduated from Oklahoma State University with his Masters in Business Administration in 2010 and Masters of Science in Biomedical Sciences in 2011. With a background in regulatory affairs and business development, he wanted to help bring innovative biomedical products to consumers.
“I’m a problem solver,” he says. “Identifying the business opportunity is my skill set.”
Since humans produce OEA in the small intestine naturally from olive oil, the Food and Drug Administration allowed NutriForward to develop OEA as a new dietary ingredient. Subsequently, NutriForward was able to secure an acknowledgment from the FDA that OEA is safe for human consumption.
RiduZone is different from other dietary supplements because it supplements identical molecules that occur naturally in the body to trigger the feeling of being full and increase the metabolism of body fat.
“Most weight loss supplements are herbal or plants extracts — they’re not produced in the body,” Marulappa says. “That’s the difference and the game-changer.”
One of the beneficiaries of RiduZone is Beth Gillmore of Garland, Texas. Gillmore has struggled with losing weight for most of her adult life and has always been a skeptic of weight loss supplements.
“I never believed there was a miracle pill that is going to make the fat fall off,” she says.
Then she heard Sarah Gonzales, a television host and producer on The Blaze, talk about how RiduZone helped her maintain her weight loss. Gillmore and her husband, Mike, discussed their desire to both lose 100 pounds and decided that same day that they were going to do it together.
Mike is a software engineer manager and Beth works from home sewing weighted blankets for people with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Their sedentary lifestyle made it challenging for them to lose weight over the years.
Beth says her “weakness for sugar” also contributed to her diabetes, driving down her energy level in the afternoon and nudging her to snack. She wouldn’t want to sew or do activities with her family because she felt down.
The Gillmores have now been taking RiduZone for three months — she’s lost 34 pounds and he’s lost 30 pounds.
“It’s eliminated the desire to snack in the middle of the day,” she says. “We eat less in our meals without feeling deprived by what we’re eating.”
Her back, knees and hips have already started to feel better. She and her husband can now drive for hours at a time to go visit their 15 grandchildren without feeling uncomfortable or needing to regularly stop at fast food restaurants. In a few years when they both retire Beth envisions going on a cruise with her husband, something that would have been a challenge before they started taking RiduZone.
Probably the most significant change from losing the weight is how their children and grandchildren have seen their moods change. “They’ve seen that our attitude has completely changed,” she says. “We’re more willing to go do activities with them when we wouldn’t want to do before.”
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